By EARL O. CONDEZA
DAVAO CITY – The Mindanao campus community of the University of the Philippines spilled into the streets on September 11 here to demonstrate their indignation over budget cuts of the university in the middle of the expose of wastage of billions of pesos in Congressional allocations.
Students and faculty, as well as the workers’ union of the school comprised the biggest group of about 800 demonstrators who demanded the abolition of the discretionary fund of Congress representatives, following the disclosure of the scandalous funneling of welfare funds to fake nongovernment organizations.
The demonstration here, marked by a street march from Rizal Park and a rally at the Freedom Park in central Davao City, joined the national call to hold a wider rally in EDSA, the main avenue in Metro Manila that saw the birth of the People Power movement, made globally famous when it toppled strongman, Ferdinand Marcos.
Filipinos angered by the fund wastage in Congress poured into EDSA in August 26 in a show of national indignation, marked by rallies in other cities in the country.
UP Mindanao protesters traveled 20 kilometers from their campus in Barangay Mintal to Rizal Park to join with other schools in Davao City shouting “not to treat them like pigs”.
“We are employees of UP and we pay religiously our taxes through salary deductions. Yet, these would only go to the pockets of few politicians? We don’t feel we benefited from our taxes,” said Lynda Buenaobra, president of the All UP Workers’ Union Mindanao.
“Instead of the pork barrel funds going to pockets of some politicians, it must be allocated to increase the salary of workers and to social services also”.
Despite the rain, UP student leaders said they would continue the fight to abolish all kinds of pork barrel, said Malaya Genotiva, chairperson of UP Student Council (USC).
Genotiva said that the “Sigaw ng UP Min, ‘Wag kaming babuyin’. Sigaw ito hindi lang ng UP Min, sigaw din ito ng buong UP system at iba pang mga state university and colleges [The shout of UP Min ‘Don’t Treat Us Like Pigs’, is the shout of the entire UP system and of the other state universities and colleges]”.
The anger was poured against the reduction of budget on public schools earlier tied to lack of government funds only to shock a nation over the expose of P10 billion in discretionary funds given to non-existing private organizations supposed to cater to farmers, women, fisherfolk and other marginal communities in the country.
The scandal was made worse with documented reports of lavish lifestyle and high spending of the children of Janet Lim-Napoles, the principal figure in the alleged manipulation of Congress’s Priority Development Assistance Fund, the official name of discretionary funds, or pork barrel, of lawmakers.
Genotiva said that the Aquino administration remained firm on the pork barrel system despite a nationwide clamor to abolish it. “Sadyang binababoy at binababoy lang tayo ni Aquino [Aquino treated us like pigs],” Genotiva added
“Government is fooling the students and the people when [President Benigno Aquino] said that government has no more fund for education, when he just distributed it to his political supporters,” said Arian Jane Ramos, Alyansa ng mga Aktibong Kabataan sa UP Mindanao (ANAK UP Min).
Kit Frias, editor-in-chief of UP’s student publication, Himati, said that “UP system again got the highest budget cut of P1.43 million.”
Marian Jule Catabas Cedeño, a UP student, considered pork barrel a joke and fit the name to its wasteful spending. “[Government] should give that money to social services, [not to] those personal projects of legislators.”
Communication Arts senior, James Labrigas said that “not prioritizing education is a form of treating students like pigs”.
Gelyn Alapag, head of the College of Humanities and Social Sciences Student Council said that “minimizing the budget for education forced students of state universities to stop schooling to work instead”.
“Janet Napoles stole a large amount of money only to launder it. So why not give it to education,” she added
“Through the years we know that there are issues of corruption, but why does government remained silent on it?” UP debater Kenon Pamosena said. (Earl O. Condeza, davaotoday.com)abolish pdaf, abolish pork, pdaf, University of the Philippines, UP budget cut, UP Mindanao