PARAÑAQUE City, June 13, 2014—Just a day ahead of the 116th Philippine independence day celebration, Baclaran shrine’s rector was honest enough to call the country’s independence a sham, especially with the unresolved pork barrel scam.
Not wanting to “spoil the fun”, Redemptorist father Victorino Cueto reasoned that the many serious problems Filipinos face as a nation, particularly the multi-billion peso pork barrel scam, involving numerous elected “public servants”, prevent them from achieving “complete independence”.
And by independence, the priest meant not simple freedom from foreign domination, as was the case over 116 years ago, but ordinary citizens’ right to get what they deserve from people they voted into office.
Cueto told his audience, “Schools recently opened. Imagine just how many school children would have benefitted from those ‘missing’ billions.”
That amount, he explained, could have funded the building of classrooms and the purchase of much needed textbooks for public school students.
Cueto lamented that because of graft, many supposedly good projects never make it beyond the planning stage.
“Say, of the total budget bankrolled for a particular project, ten percent went to this politician, another ten percent to that one, and five to so-and-so…until there is hardly left of the taxpayers’ money,” he said in Filipino.
He feared that Filipinos, with anomalies becoming all too common, are getting too used to a culture of corruption that they no longer feel outraged when politicians rob them of their hard-earned money.
Cueto told the assembled faithful that, as devotees of Our Mother of Perpetual Help, they must be vigilant and must look after one another.
According to him, “It’s ironic that many of our poor beg politicians for help in times of crisis … We are devotees of ‘Mahal na Ina’, we should care for each other.” (Raymond A. Sebastián)