by DANILDA L. FUSILERO, MART D. SAMBALUD, and TYRONE A. VELEZ
From cronies to political dynasties, nothing has changed much as to their misuse and abuse of the pork barrel system during the strongman’s rule in the 1970’s as it is today, activist leaders said on Saturday as they took turns throwing broadsides at corruption in high offices during indignation rallies in several cities in Mindanao to mark the declaration of Martial Law 41 years ago.
“Sa una, ang mga cronies ni Marcos maoy nangawkaw sa kwarta sa katawhan, karon ang political dynasties ug mga pulitiko via pork barrel system. Bisan asa tan-awon, walay kalahi-an, (Before, Marcos’ cronies stole from the nation’s coffers; now its the political dynasties and politicians’ turn to loot the pork barrel. However you look at them, there’s nothing new),” said Bae Norma Capuyan, an indigenous leader of the Apo Sandawa Lumadnong Panaghi-usa sa Cotabato [literally, Apo Sandawa Tribal Unity in Cotabato], in a rally held in Kidapawan City’s town plaza.
In Davao City, a cultural rally dubbed “Never Pork-get” at the city’s People’s Park highlighted the Martial Law commemoration by activists numbering around 1,000.
The rally featured Angelique Alcantara, a Samal resident and semi-finalist of The Voice of the Philippines, who donned a Philippine-flag colored dress and sang a Martial Law-era song “Bayan Ko”.
Agustin “Don” Pagusara, a Palanca awardee and political detainee, delivered a Cebuano poem in tribute to martyrs and heroes, while SELDA member Roger Gonzales led a singing of Martial Law era songs.
And in Tagum City, the capital city of Davao del Norte, activists and consumers’s groups marked the day with angry challenges to government to resolve the corporate war at the ailing electric cooperative that had pestered the province for decades on unstable electric supply.
Pork barrel abuse then and now
Cronyism, or the system of showering political allies with special political and economic favors, was the trademark of corruption of the late strongman, Ferdinand Marcos, as he ruled the nation for almost two decades, as he extended his term of office with the declaration of Martial Law throughout the 1970’s and to the middle of the 1980’s. He was ousted in 1986.
Bayan Muna Rep. Carlos Isagani Zarate said Marcos’ Presidential Decree 1177, which allowed lump sum allocations, “started the policy of putting lump sum funds in the national budget”. The decree was titled “Revising the Budget Process in order to Institutionalize the Budgetary Innovations of the New Society”.
“This is where it all started, since this lump sum funds are not itemized, there’s no way we can check how presidential funds are being used,” Zarate said.
With a national anger over the recent expose of huge amounts pocketed by politicians of known political clans, Zarate said that Congress was forced to abolish the Priority Development Assistance Fund, the official name of the Congressional discretionary funds or pork barrel, and reallocated it to the national budget.
“The danger now is that all congressmen would be lining up to Malacañang to ask for budget and favors,” he said.
Zarate urged the people not to stop in the campaign calling for the abolition of all forms of pork barrel.
Human rights indemnification
Martial Law survivors of politically-motivated killings and civilian rights abuses also raised their anger over the ease by which the pork barrel was allocated and wasted, contrary to the difficulty at convincing government to release the indemnification to the victims.
“Nga-a nga ang pork barrel nga wa-ay balaud nga ginsubay mas dali ma-realease, ang amon nga claim nga may balaud na kag nagdaug na kami sa international court asta karon daw wa-ay interes ang gobyerno nga ihatag sa amon, (Why is it that they can release immediately the pork barrel without any law, while government is not interested to release our claims, which are backed by international law),” said Roque Aperong, a Martial Law victim of abuse and now aged 62.
He is a member of Claimants 1081, a group of more than 10,000 human rights victims under Martial Law, who won an indemnification class suit case in a Hawaii federal court.
Aperong said the apparent non-interest of government to release the indemnification money was ironic “as last February 26, the Human Rights Victims Reparation and Recognition Act (RA 10368) was passed into law”.
In Davao City, former political detainees under Martial Law gathered also on Saturday for their seventh regional assembly at Philippine Women’s College to call on government to implement RA 10368. These victims have formed the Samahan ng mga Ex-Detainees Laban sa Detensyon at Amnestiya (SELDA).
In the Davao City rally, the program was also marked with songs and dances to rile and poke fun at what the activists said were the similarity of the policies of the present administration and that of Marcos on the pork barrel and human rights violations.
UCCP Pastor Jurie Jaime said that people’s taxes “are funding soldiers who commit murder in remote communities, such as the recent killing of Lumad and farmer leader Benjie Planos.”
Jaime said Planos, who opposed the military occupation and entry of oil palm plantation in Loreto, Agusan del Sur, was shot and hacked in his face by unidentified men believed to be members of the state security forces.
Rev. Socrates Idul, conference minister of the United Church of Christ in the Philippines, said that all pork barrel system, from the barangay to president, be abolished.
The UCCP issued a pastoral letter calling for the faithful to discern God’s summons for Christian action in these critical times and demand accountability and transparency from our nation’s leaders.
Slamming privatization in Tagum
Meanwhile, 1,000 protesters in Tagum City slammed the government’s privatization program of public utilities such as that of the Davao del Norte Electric Cooperative (DANECO), Tagum Water District and Davao Regional Hospital.
Dioscoro Granada, spokesperson of the Abolish Pork Barrel Movement, criticized Aquino’s executive order to the National Electric Authority (NEA) to take over DANECO, which he said would usher the entry of Aboitiz Power Corporation as the electric provider and charge higher power rates.
“Ang sentral issue bahin sa DANECO ay issue sa hustisya kay tungod ang mga katawhan gihimuan og inhustisya samot sa 42 ka tuig mao among demand kay Aquino na kinihanglang iyahang paimbestigahan ang anomaliya sa electric cooperative labi na ang DANECO-NEA; isa na diha ang pagpanguha og capital unya wala nabalik na benepisyo sa mga miyembro-konsumante, (The central issue on DANECO is the injustice done on the people in its 42 years, that’s why our demand to Aquino is to have him investigate the anomalies in DANECO-NEA, where they siphoned the capital and never remitted it for the benefit of member-consumers),” Granada said.
The rallyists came from Compostela Valley and Davao del Norte, both covered by the franchise of the DANECO, which was criticized for unstable power supply.
Granada also said that the group of Manuel V. Pangilinan, who owns the Philippine Long Distance Telephone and the Maynilad Water, was reported to be taking over the Davao Regional Hospital and Southern Philippine Medical Center (SPMC) and the Tagum Water District.
Granada said “these are being pushed by a sham” private-public partnership that would deprive public services from the people”. (Danilda L. Fusilero, Mart D. Sambalud, and Tyrone A. Velez, davaotoday.com)abolish pdaf, abolish pork, Martial Law commemoration, Never Porkget, pdaf, pork barrel, September 21 rally