From martial law to pork: ‘Concentration of wealth, power still unchanged’

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MANILA, Sept. 22, 2013—Decades have passed since the declaration of Martial Law, yet nothing much has changed in the system of corruption hounding the government.This was the cry echoed by protesters on Saturday during the rally dubbed as “Level Up: Never PORKget” held at the Rizal Park. 

The rally, which coincided with the 41st anniversary of the declaration of martial law, was the fourth in the series of anti-pork protests held to call for the total abolition of the pork barrel scheme in the government. 

Joining the protesters was National Artist for Literature Bienvenido Lumbera who urged the people to remember the lessons of Martial Law, especially in fighting the issue of corruption in the government. 

“I want to remind the old ones who have forgotten and the youth who did not experience the martial law years. I want to remind them of that chapter in the history of the Filipinos when the country was under martial law,” Lumbera said. 

“The years of martial rule taught Filipinos how to value and protect their freedom,” he added. 

The national artist also noted that Filipinos must not turn a blind eye against the issues confronting the country, urging them to be proactive and vigilant in protesting against wrongdoings committed by government leaders. 

“Let us remember that martial law is connected with the protests we are making against the pork barrel. It is very obvious that the government coffers are abused by individuals who have no conscience and who want nothing but their personal gains,” Lumbera said. 

“We have to remember that in every move made by the government, we should have an adequate response. In our protest against the pork barrel, we are showing the government that there are certain crimes that we would staunchly oppose,” Lumbera said. 

The mass protest, gathering approximately 700 individuals, featured cultural performances and speeches from various religious and anti-corruption groups. The number of rallyists peaked to 2,000 during their march to Mendiola for the second leg of the protest around noontime. 

Selective prosecution 

Bagong Alyansang Makabayan secretary general Renato Reyes Jr. echoed Lumbera’s sentiments, noting that corruption in the government remains the same even after the fall of the Marcos dictatorship. 

“Even after Martial Law, nothing much has changed with the rate of corruption plaguing the government. If before the shoes of Imelda (Marcos) symbolize corruption, now we have the bathtubs and houses owned by (Janet Lim) Napoles,” he said. 

“Now that we are confronted with the same problem, will those involved in this PDAF (Priority Development Assistance Fund) scam be made accountable of their actions?” he added. 

Reyes also chided the “selective prosecution” done by the government in resolving the multi-billion peso pork barrel scandal, noting that only members of the opposition are undergoing investigation.  

“Until now, allies of the administration are not being investigated and no case was filed against them,” he said. 

“Our impression is that they are doing a selective prosecution that focuses on the period from 2007 to 2009, which includes the term of former president Arroyo. How about those within the term of President Aquino? How are they planning to investigate that?” Reyes added. 

“What we need is a true prosecution that will investigate not only for a certain period, but throughout the use of the PDAF,” he noted. 

Pick-up lines 

Lingayen-Dagupan Archbishop Emeritus Oscar Cruz urged government leaders to abstain from greed, noting that wealth and riches are just temporal goods of the world that they can’t bring in their deathbeds. 

“All of us are born in this world with nothing. When we die, we also won’t be able to bring anything with us. So do not focus on saving that much because in the end, you won’t be able to bring even just a single centavo with you,” Cruz said. 

Taking a jab against those involved in the multi-billion peso pork barrel scandal, Cruz cracked a number of pick-up lines to lighten up the mood of the protesters. 

“Ano ang ibig sabihin ng pork barrel?” he asked. “Kababuyan.” (What is the meaning of pork barrel? Filthiness.) 

“Ano ang ibig sabihin ng pork barrel scam?” Cruz quipped. “Pambababoy.” (What is the meaning of pork barrel scam? Immoral abuse.) 

“Ano ang ibig sabihin ng ‘Huwag ninyong alisin ang pork barrel ko?’” he asked. “Baboy ako.” (What is the meaning of ‘do not scrap my pork barrel allocation? I am a pig.) 

Lack of political will 

For his part, Fr. Joe Dizon, one of the convenors of the Abolish Pork Movement, criticized the efforts made by the government in resolving the issue, noting that moves being made are insufficient to bring truth and justice to the people. 

“I believe that President Aquino is not showing a strong political will to hear the call of the people to abolish the pork barrel system. If he is serious about this issue, he can level up with the people by abolishing his own pork barrel and everything else will follow,” he said. 

Dizon also urged the people to take the next step in protesting against corruption by uniting and ensuring that the noise they make are being heard by people in authority. 

“We have to level up in the issue of pork barrel. This means that we have to initiate acts together and ensure that this initiation would reach a clear end. We have to pressure the government to focus and resolve this issue,” he said. 

For his part, he encouraged government leaders to renew themselves and be true servants of the people. 

“To our government leaders, I hope you would serve the people truthfully. Please consider the sacrifices made by the people whenever they give portions of their salary just to pay government taxes,” Dizon said. (Jennifer Orillaza)

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