TAGUM CITY—Leaders and members of various religious denominations across the country have expressed support to a proposed bill aimed at “abolishing the pork barrel system” through a people’s initiative.
The Association of Major Religious Superiors of the Philippines (AMRSP) joined the protest action Monday at the Luneta Park on the observance of the National Heroes day.
In a statement, the nuns said: “We condemn and call for the total abolition of the pork barrel. We should not stop until those who were involved answer to the people, their bosses to whom they should first and foremost serve.”
In opposing the Disbursement Acceleration Program (DAP) and the Priority Development Assistance Fund (PDAF), the AMRSP officials said they demand for an “impartial and speedy investigation of all parties involved, and demand (for) a full accounting of all the funds.”
Meanwhile, the Philippine Council of Evangelic Churches also issued a statement of support to the organizers and supporters of the People’s Initiative against the pork barrel system.
DAP and PDAF “breed political patronage and perpetrate corruption among our government officials,” Bishop Efraim Tendero, National Director of Philippine Council of Evangelical Churches, last Friday said.
For his part, Ephraim S. Fajutagana, Obispo Maximo XIII of the Iglesia Filipina Independiente and chairperson of the National Council of Churches in the Philippines (NCCP), said, “The core of democracy is accountability and transparency. When politicians and presidents choose to accumulate funds to themselves without adequate checks and balances then corruption will always flourish.”
Archbishop of Manila Cardinal Luis Antonio Tagle said: “(T)hank you for making democracy alive and active. Thank you for advancing decency in public life. Thank you for giving voice to countless victims of corruption especially the poor and marginalized.”
Also, Rev. Bishop Jose Cabantan, D.D of Bukidnon, said that “the effort of the People’s Initiative really manifest what it means and is highly commendable. Hence, let us move as one people, one country abolishing pork barrel and transform this “pork” into something that nourishes social justice in the country.”
The People’s Initiative to Abolish Pork Barrel (PIAP), organizer of the “Stand Up! Sign Up!: The People’s Initiative against Pork Barrel”, aimed to gather six million signature “to compel the Commission on Elections (Comelec) to hold a referendum on the said bill.”
“Only a simple majority—or 50% of votes plus one—is needed to pass the legislation, which will be the first ever to be passed through “the direct sovereign act of the people,” according to PIAP.
Under Republic Act No. 6735, or “The Initiative and Referendum Act,” a petition should be signed by at least 10% of the total registered voters across the country with at least 3% of voters from each legislative district
The bill entitled “An Act Abolishing The Presidential And Congressional Pork Barrel System, Strengthening The System Of Checks And Balances Over Public Funds, Prohibiting Certain Acts, And Providing Penalties Therefor”, PIAP said, “is a direct exercise of sovereign power by the people of their authority to enact legislation reserved by the Philippine Constitution.”
The said bill aims to scrap all lump sum public funds over which the Office of the President, along with legislators and public officers, are given discretion.
“Recognizing that the pork barrel system is one of the main sources of graft and corruption and of patronage politics, the State shall ensure that measures designed to eliminate the rules and practices of the pork barrel system are in place and that the mechanisms of checks and balances are strengthened,” PIAP said.
The bill “mandates line item budgeting, prohibits and criminalizes the appropriation and use of lump sum discretionary funds, and penalizes violators with six years and one day to ten years imprisonment and disqualification from holding public office.”
The Catholic Bishops Conference of the Philippines (CBCP) together with other religious, political and cause-oriented groups have launched Monday a people’s initiative to call for the abolition of the pork barrel system including presidential discretionary and special funds such as DAP.
On the national observance of National Heroes’ Day, thousands of private and government employees, church, labor and civil society groups have converged at the Luneta Park, Monday, August 25 for the people’s initiative against pork barrel.
The “Stand Up, Sign Up Against All Pork” event was held at the Luneta Park from 6 a.m. to 12 noon demanding an end of all types of pork barrel and corruption in the government as it coincided with the first anniversary of the Million People March against Pork Barrel.
On August 23, anti-pork groups gathered in Cebu City for the People’s Congress which approved the draft bill that will be the subject of the People’s Initiative. (davaotoday.com)