Mon, Aug 26, 2013 - Page 5 News List

Calls for protest march over Philippine ‘pork barreling’


A Filipino activist yesterday paints red masks to be used for anti-corruption protests today in Manila, Philippines, calling for the abolition of a controversial priority development assistance fund, worth at least US$11.44 billion a year.

Photo: EPA

Anger in social media at the misuse of Philippine state funds has snowballed into calls for a rally expected to attract thousands, an organizer said yesterday.

Calls for a “million people march” scheduled for today began circulating on Facebook and Twitter about two weeks ago after local press reports of a scam involving the Priority Development Assistance Fund.

The fund is allocated to lawmakers for use in development projects. Critics see it as funding “pork barrel” projects, which have traditionally been a source of corruption.

At the center of the controversy is a woman who allegedly connived with legislators to siphon off about 10 billion pesos (US$233 million) from the fund.

“We demand transparency and accountability,” the organizers said in their online invitation on Facebook. “Abolish pork barrel.”

One of the organizers, Peachy Rallonza-Bretana, said the idea for the march originally circulated among her circle of friends, but quickly caught on.

“There really is no group organizing this,” she told the Philippine Daily Inquirer, adding it was “snowballing at great speed.”

As of yesterday afternoon, nearly 18,000 people had said they would join marches culminating in what the organizers said would be a peaceful “picnic get together” in Luneta Park in central Manila.

Activists in other cities have said they would hold simultaneous marches in support of the Manila protest. Various religious, professional, business and leftist organizations have also signified interest in joining the protest.

“We are aghast, disgusted and enraged at such a wanton display of shamelessness by those who we elected to serve and protect the people,” wrote alumni of the elite Philippine Military Academy, who are no longer on active duty.

“We cannot and we will not tolerate this any more even those from among our own,” they said.

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