MANILA – Despite asking the public last weekend not to direct their ire concerning corruption on President Benigno Noynoy Aquino III and his allies, a broad array of groups gathered June 3 calling on Filipinos to come out on June 12, Independence Day, to protest corruption without letting off the probe the top leaders of the Aquino administration themselves.
Dante Jimenez, chairman of the Violence Against Crime and Corruption (VACC) said in Filipino at the press conference in Quezon City that the Aquino administration seems to be putting cases of corruptions to sleep. He recalled that from the start, when the so-called queen of pork barrel scam Janet Lim-Napoles surfaced from weeks of hiding, it was President Aquino who escorted her to Camp Crame, where, eventually, she was transferred to a special jail. Later during the press conference, Lito David of Kapatiran asked how come the Aquino administration is until now neither denying nor confirming that on the day Napoles supposedly surrendered, she had had lunch with Aquino in Malacañang.
Jimenez said the Aquino government is covering up the issue through “entertainment.” He asked the public to join the June 12 protest against corruption “whatever, whenever.”
Sr Maureen Catabian, RGS, representing the Church Peoples Alliance vs. Pork Barrel, said the public along with the church people should “act against deliberate cover up.”
In a regime of systemic corruption, “Lahat ng sangkot, dapat managot” (Everyone involved has to be made to account for it), Catabian said.
Corruption everyone’s issue
Mae Paner, popularly known as Juana Change, emphasized that corruption is everybody’s problem, “so we should all act against it, and not just the Left and those” who sat with her in Tuesday’s press conference. She expressed happiness that on June 12, they will all come together once again. She said the protest will also signify ‘Ouch Pinoy,’ not just ‘Oust Pnoy,’ because the Filipinos are already hurting so much from what the Aquino administration has been doing to them.
“We are being treated as if we’re stupid – are you stupid? Am I stupid?” Juana Change asked. “No, we are not,” she said. Sr. Mary John Mananzan, sitting by Paner, also replied she is not stupid.
Still, “Nothing is happening (with the corruption cases), and now they (Aquino administration) are being exposed as also guilty. But why is it that when the guilty ones are his rivals, they say, ‘go ahead, try their cases.’ But when it comes to his allies such as the Abads and Alcala, ‘Investigate first, don’t be hasty.’ This is not right,” Juana Change said at the press conference.
Because of poverty and fewer government services which can easily be seen in lack of social services such as housing, education, health care and reproductive health services, Menchu Sarmiento of Babae Laban sa Katiwalian (Babala) warned the Aquino government it could no longer “cover up the foulness.”
For Jocelyn Martinez, a public school teacher for 20 years now, this week’s school opening and the obvious chaos resulting from worsening lack of classrooms and teachers are just some of the signs that under Aquino, “there is money for pork but not for education.”
For the public school teachers, a cover up is happening not just to hide the issue of corruption involving the President and his allies but also the resulting problems of corruption. She cited three “adjustments” being implemented on public education “to cover up inadequacies there.” These adjustments include the two shifts in holding classes, resulting in longer class hours for fewer days, which she said is hard on teachers and students. It also included the distance learning education being pushed by the education department, and the increased reliance, including the government subsidy of students going to private schools.
Pork barrel from Malacañang to every level of govt
From teachers to youth-students, church people to whistle blowers, workers and middle class Filipino businessmen, they are all urging Filipinos to make a move against massive stealing of public funds and against the alleged ongoing coverup by the Aquino government. What’s happening is a “clear playacting or pretence of holding an investigation from Malacañang to Senate and Congress,” said Kilusang Mayo Uno vice president Lito Ustarez.
The labor leader said it is high time the Philippines abolish pork, adding that although Aquino “removed the PDAF (Priority Development Assistance Fund), he has at the same time centralized pork and stealing from Malacañang going to his secretaries and allies.” Ustarez said government projects continue to pass through Aquino’s allies, relatives and fellow gun enthusiasts.
Ustarez also questioned the suggestion seemingly being considered by the administration to form a committee or a “Truth Commission” to investigate pork scam. He described it as “just another circus” in the making.
Johnny Chan, a businessman, said pork barrel is present from top to bottom levels of the government.
Chan accused the Aquino government not just of diverting funds away from social services and into its pockets, but also of tormenting and hitting hard the middle class and small businesses. He cited as example a new imposition of Aquino government taxwoman Kim Henares, who according to him ordered to destroy government receipts running up to billions nationwide, but recently ordered small businesses to keep receipts for as long as ten years. He said the law required only three years.
“Under Aquino, the government agencies from Finance Dept to Trade and Industry Department are conspiring to make doing business harder for Filipino businessmen,” Chan said. He cited the required papers and clearances for securing a business permit, for example.
“What the Aquino government wants is foreign investment. But what about us? They want us to turn into their slaves,” Chan said in Filipino.
Chan also said every Filipino is being saddled with increasing foreign debts – “when Erap was ousted in 2001, the country’s foreign debt stood at P1.2 trillion ($27.4 b); it grew to become more than four times as large, to P4.5 trillion ($102.646 b), when GMA stepped down in 2010. As of December 2013, it stood at P5.6 trillion ($127.74 b).” He warned that these piling up debts are all being paid by Filipinos, and ordinary businessmen like him.
Erap is former President Joseph Ejercito Estrada, now Manila Mayor. He was popularly elected in 1998, but he was ousted by People Power in 2001 and replaced by then vice-president Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo, who eventually pardoned him after he was convicted of plunder. Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo, or GMA, ran for president in 2004, and achieved a widely questioned narrow victory over the popular rival candidate FPJ or Fernando Poe Jr. Her alleged massive cheating gave rise to “Hello Garci” phone scandal, where she allegedly ordered the then election commissioner to ensure she gained a winning margin. She stepped down in 2010; she is now a congresswoman representing a Pampanga district. She is in custody over cases of corruption, but she is not in jail but in a hospital as of this writing.
Businessman Chan blames the series of corruption happening in Philippine government not just on political dynasties, because he said they are more of a political mafia.
“President Aquino should better admit it that he’s incapable of running the government,” Lito David of Ang Kapatiran said. He urged Aquino to stop from just dribbling the issue “till next election comes around.”
On June 12, Bayan secretary general Renato Reyes Jr. said these groups are set to converge at Liwasang Bonifacio and then march to Malacañang. He also invited the public to take part in the Independence Day protests. (bulatlat.com)
PHOTO 1: Sr Mary John Mananzan reads statement of #Abolish Pork Movement, invites public to join Independence Day action against cover up of pork scam [Photo by M. Salamat / bulatlat.com]
PHOTO 2: Everyone involved in the scam has to be made to account for it. [From left, Dante Jimenez of VACC, Sr. Mary John Mananzan of #Abolish Pork Movement, Mae Paner aka Juana Change, Lito David of Ang Kapatiran, Lito Ustarez of KMU]