DAVAO CITY — Groups behind a Congressionally-recognized people’s initiative to abolish the pork barrel system are targeting to gather ten percent or all registered voters, or an estimated 600 signatures, in the Southern Mindanao region to meet their nationwide target of six million signatures.

“We have an estimated voters of 60 million nationwide and we target about ten percent of that in each congressional district to be safe. But the requirement really is just three percent per district,” said Bayan Muna partylist representative, Neri Colmenares.

Colmenares addressed more than 1,000 individuals who volunteered for their campaign to gather signatures which was launched in Davao City’s Rizal Park today.

Colmenares said that they would need 50,000 signatures from the First Congressional District of Davao City, which has 500,000 registered voters but the required signatures though is only 15,000.

He jested with the crowd if they are willing to volunteer themselves, “even under the heat of the sun, without lunch and without money?” which the crowd cheered with a “yes, yes, yes!”

Colmenares encouraged the would-be campaigners and said “it is not everyday that ordinary people can legislate laws.”

“Through the people’s initiative, every one who signs is a lawmaker. Each of us can say to our congressmen: I will pas a law that will send you to jail if you try to insert pork funds inside the budget,” he said.
The People’s Initiative Against the Pork Barrel System was launched in Cebu late last Month with the purpose of passing a proposed bill to abolish the pork barrel system.

Colmenares said aside from the “popular form of pork barrel like the Priority Development Assistance Fund (Pdaf) and the presidential pork or Disbursement Acceleration Program (Dap), what we simply want is for the people’s money to go directly to the people.”

The misuse of Pdaf involving Janet Lim Napoles was exposed last year, and led to the arrest of Napoles and three senators. The Supreme Court also declared the Pdaf unconstitutional.

The High Tribunal also declared unconstitutional the multibillion-peso Disbursement Acceleration Fund, which Malacanang used as its discretionary fund.

Colmenares said the proposed bill to be derived from the people’s initiative define discretionary funds and lump sum allocation, and to put in jail those who violate its provisions.

Colmenares clarified however, that the bill allows “lump sum allocation for disaster, intelligence fund of security forces, and contingency fund.”

Colmenares said they hope to gather all the signatures by districts by the end of December this year, and submit them for verification  by the Comission on Elections on January 2015.

Ariel Casilao of Makabayan Southern Mindanao, said they will treat the signature campaign as “rigorous and systematic as an election campaign.”

“Our utmost concern is to educate many on the evils of the pork barrel system, their signatures should be a reflection of that understanding and willingness to participate in the broad movement for accountability of public officials,” Casilao said.

Meanwhile, Bayan Muna partylist Rep. Carlos Isagani Zarate said there were no other congressional districts or partylist representatives who expressed their support for the people’s initiative.

“Like other congress representatives, those allied with the President believe that there is no more pork barrel as the Pdaf was already declared unconsitutional,” he said.

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