“ENOUGH with politicians pocketing people’s taxes, while the rest of the country are suffering from the devastation of the floods,” Los Angeles- based Fil-Am community leader Art Garcia said in a press statement, voicing out the sentiments of many Filipinos all over the world about another scandal, which has rocked our kababayans’ confidence in public officials.
In an act of solidarity with the “Million March to Luneta” protest against corruption on August 26 in the Philippines, Filipino-Americans and their allies are organizing a parallel protest on August 23-25 in key cities around the United States.
But three days before the rallies, Pres. Aquino reversed his stand on the pork barrel issue, and announced that it is time to abolish the corruption-tainted Priority Development Assistance Fund (PDAF).
This, after he has suspended the distribution of the PDAF, pending results of the investigations that have ensued from a recent report by the Commission on Audit, which affirms the abuse and misuse of some lawmakers and officials of the executive department of pork barrel funds.
The Philippine Senate Blue Ribbon Committee said their own investigation on lawmakers, who have been linked to the misuse of pork barrel, will also begin alongside those being con- ducted by the Department of Justice and the National Bureau of Investigation.
Kababayans all over the world are happy that PNoy listened to the voice of his “bosses” (aka the Filipino people), who overwhelmingly called for the abolition of PDAF.
But they say the fight is not over, and that Filipinos all over the world should make their voice louder and stronger so that pork barrel, including allocations for the President’s office and other branches of government (in any name and form) will be abolished.
They also demand for the unbiased investigation and transparent trial and prosecution of all government officials allegedly involved in the pork barrel scam (Hello, Mr. President — ever heard of the Freedom of Information Bill?).
In the Philippines and here in the United States, “tuloy ang laban!”
Veterans, veterans’ widows, health professionals and other kababayans in Northern California had their voices heard at the Philippine Consulate in Downtown San Francisco Friday, August 23.
“We are sending the message to President Aquino that if he wants to clean the government, he should him- self initiate scrapping the pork barrel,” said Regalado Baldonado, WW II veteran and Commissioner of San Francisco for Veterans Affairs.
United States Action Against PDAF (USAP) will hold a candlelight vigil to show support and indignation on August 25, 5pm at the Philippine Consulate General in 3600 Wilshire Boulevard, Los Angeles.
Fil-Am organizations in New York are also organizing a demonstration on August 25, Sunday, 3pm at the Philippine Consulate.
USAP will deliver a demand letter which requests for:
1. The abolition of the pork barrel system in the euphemism of Priority Development Assistance Fund (PDAF), the source of graft and corruption in the government used for political patronage and not for the benefit of the people,
2. The transfer of abolished PDAF to government budget for basic services like education, roads, health, and reforestation, but not debt servicing.
3. Punishing all grafters in the governments and those who were found guilty of malversation of public funds and ostentatious living out of PDAF.
4. Sequestration of all properties of corrupt officials and grafters like Janet Napoles.
5. Calling on President Aquino to divest himself of his own PDAF and set a good example.
As revealed by a whisteblower, P10 billion of hard-earned taxpayers’ money had allegedly been pocketed by some government officials, with businesswoman Janet Lim Napoles as mastermind.
Napoles allegedly created bogus non-government organizations, which became the benificiaries of pork barrel funds. These funds had reportedly been funneled to some lawmakers and officials of the executive department, through an elaborate and multi-level scam.
This allocation was intended and appropriated for anti-poverty programs, which should help poor Filipinos gain access to better social services like health, education, livelihood programs, better infrastructure, flood protection, etc.
In Balitang America’s online daily poll, an overwhelming 93 percent of those who voted said they do not trust Philippine public officials all the more because of the pork barrel scam.
Some 82 percent of our viewers, who voted, do not agree with Pres. Noynoy Aquino. The president said that the PDAF addresses needs and concerns of the people in their districts, which are otherwise unknown to the national government. These kababayans who voted, however, argued that this pork barrel system just gives too much power to government officials and reinforces a culture of corruption.
Will you join the protest against corruption on August 25 and 26? Should the pork barrel, not just the PDAF, be totally abolished?
Should government officials involved in this scam be prosecuted and be made accountable for abusing public trust?
Gel Santos Relos is the anchor of TFC’s “Balitang America.” Views and opinions expressed by the author in this column are are solely those of the author and not of Asian Journal and ABS-CBN-TFC. For comments, go to www.TheFil-AmPerspective.com, https://www.facebook.com/Gel.Santos.Relos