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‘People March’ shifts to EDSA

By Rio N. Araja | Aug. 31, 2013 at 12:02am
Social media  link groups for Sept. 11 ‘Edsa Tayo’

Amid criticism that the Aquino administration was giving special treatment to suspected pork barrel scam mastermind Janet Napoles, more groups and individuals pledged support for another mass action to demonstrate their anger at how the government is supposedly misusing taxpayers’ monies.

This time, the protest rally, dubbed “Edsa Tayo,” will be held on Sept. 11 at the Edsa Shrine, site of the two People’s Power uprisings that resulted in the ouster of two Philippine presidents.

Protest against the pork barrel. Whistle blowers Jun Lozada and George Rabusa join other demonstrators protesting the misuse of pork barrel appropriations in a rally in Manila on Friday. Danny Pata Protest against the pork barrel. Whistle blowers Jun Lozada and George Rabusa join other demonstrators protesting the misuse of pork barrel appropriations in a rally in Manila on Friday. Danny Pata

Like the “Million People March” at the Luneta where 100,000 people gathered last Aug. 26, the Edsa Tayo protest is being organized by small groups and people linked only by social media, like Facebook and Twitter.

The rally got a boost on Friday as well-known celebrities, like actresses Nora Aunor and Anne Curtis-Smith, announced that they will be joining the demonstrators in expressing their dismay at the pork barrel system which they perceive to be a channel of corruption.

60-year-old veteran actress Aunor said she will join Edsa Tayo during a press reception after she was named best actress at the 3rd Sakhalin International Film Festival last Aug. 23 in Russia.

On the other hand, the younger Curtis-Smith, who has more than 5.2 million followers on Twitter, has repeatedly expressed her dismay at government misuse of taxpayers’ monies, and announced she will joining Edsa Tayo along with other showbiz personalities.

Shortly after the arrest of Napoles, Curtis tweeted “Now that Napoles has surrendered & is ‘safe’ from anyone threatening her life, she better squeal on who else was in on this pork barrel scam... She OWES us that. #napoles.”

The group organizing Edsa Tayo said the demonstration should be considered a prayer vigil against corruption. The group explained in a statement why they are organizing the event.

“We feel the government is just ignoring us,” the group said in one online discussion group.

“Our anger has multiplied and it continues to grow every time we hear or read about the corruption in government,” the group added. “We fume each time we hear of how some government official has stolen the money that is supposed to be for projects meant for uplifting the lives of the poor.”

“[It’s] because we believe in EDSA. It was in EDSA, not Luneta, where the dictator Ferdinand Marcos was toppled. It was in EDSA where Erap was ousted. And we believe it will be in EDSA where the pork barrel system will end,” the group said.

Another cause-oriented group Organizing for the Philippines, led by Manuel SD Lopez, said their participation in the Edsa Tayo will likely lead to bigger protest actions that they will stage until the pork barrel system is abolished.

Lopez said their group members have started a 100-day countdown for the government to identify those involved in the misuse of pork barrel and prosecute them.

Meanwhile, Malacanang had earlier said it is not bothered by Edsa Tayo because the Aquino administration is united with the people in aspiring for a corruption-free bureaucracy.

“The people who went there are our allies against corruption,” Lacierda told journalists after the Million People March.

“What really matters now is Janet Napoles has surrendered and in the hands of prosecutors so the wheel of justice can roll and unveils the truth,” Lacierda said.

Lacierda reiterated that the nation should rejoice that Napoles chose to surrender to give light to the issue so justice will roll instead of being critical of Napoles decision to surrender to the president.

“Nahuli na si Janet Napoles. Pero bakit parang hindi masaya tayong mga Pilipino? Para kasing moro-moro (Janet Napoles has been arrested. But why are Filipinos still unhappy? Because it appears to be scripted),” writer Junep Ocampo, one of Edsa Tayo’s organizers, posted on Facebook.

Ocampo reiterated in a radio interview on Friday that Edsa Tayo organizers are further angered by government pronouncements that the Aquino government was on the side of the protesters, a view echoed by organizers of the Million People march last Aug. 26.

“Mr. President, you are not on our side. We are not on the same side,” said Peachy Rallonza-Bretaña and Renato Reyes of the Bagong Alyansang Makabayan, two of the organizers of the Luneta march.

The two said the Aquino administration does not share the protesters’ sentiments since Aquino himself does not want to do away with his Special Purpose Fund, otherwise known as the “executive pork barrel.”

The protesters’ plaint, however, appeared to have fallen on deaf ears, as the Palace refused to let go of the Special Purpose Funds which stands at P957 billion this year and the P5.25 billion President’s Social Fund as of December last year.

Deputy presidential spokesperson Abigail Valte explained that “by the very nature of some of these funds, it is obviously something to draw out of in times of need. And also, if I can point out, these funds are subject to audit of the Commission on Audit.”

Valte explained that the PSF ballooned from P1 billion to P5.2 billion under Aquino’s term because of the increase in remittance from the Philippine Amusement and Gaming Corp.

But former National Treasurer Leoner Briones said the government must also abolish the SPF. “It is high time to expand the scope of our advocacy from a small portion of the special purpose fund, which is the pork barrel, to the whole SPF itself,” she added.
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