Church prayer vigils today prelude to 3 more ‘furies’ against pork this month
Kicking off no less than four public demonstrations against the pork barrel system of the Aquino administration, the Catholic Church called for prayer vigils across the country today, a “Day of Atonement” for the “worsening social cancer” of corruption in Philippine society.
The Catholic Bishops Conference of the Philippines called for the “Day of Atonement” on Sept. 7 while other groups prepared their own anti-pork protest actions on Sept. 11 at the Edsa Shrine in Quezon City, Sept. 13 at Rizal Park in Manila and the worldwide “Zero Remittance Day” on Sept. 19.
The police said they have already prepared security measures for the protest actions and are ready to deploy 500 policemen for the Edsa Tayo prayer protest on Sept. 11.
Malacañang Palace, on the other hand, said they are not perturbed by the planned protest actions although it sees a possibility that the rallies may be used against the Aquino administration.
“That’s always a possibility,” said deputy presidential spokeswoman, Abigail Valte. “I think the citizens are smart enough to see what really happens in something like this.”
But the global group of Filipino workers, Migrante International, slammed Malacañang officials for mocking Filipinos protest actions, particularly Migrante’s call for a Zero Remittance Day on Sept. 19.
Migrante spokesman Garry Martinez said Malacañang spokesman Edwin Lacierda mocked initiatives of overseas Filipinos to launch a Zero Remittance Day the same way the Palace belittled the “Million People March” last Aug. 26 which attracted 100,000 people.
Meanwhile, CBCP president and Cebu Archbishop Jose Palma said the Day of Atonement should be marked by prayer vigils in Catholic parishes all over the country in solidarity with the vigil to be held at the Edsa Shrine, which is also called the Shrine of Our Lady of Peace.
“The pork barrel controversy must not just be approached and analyzed from the perspective of democracy and responsible citizenship. This is not just a constitutional issue or a legal concern,” the CBCP said in a pastoral statement issued on Thursday.
“Over and above these socio-political concerns, we must not forget that the commandments of God are being violated,” the bishops said.
“This is not just an offense of malicious unscrupulous citizens or the betrayal of elected public officials. This is an offense against God who commanded us “Thou shall not steal” and “Thou shall not covet your neighbor’s goods,” the statement added.
“Promoting the politics of patronage, it is contrary to the principles of stewardship, transparency and accountability. It is immoral to continue this practice,” read the pastoral letter which was issued Thursday night after a closed-door meeting of the CBCP Permanent Council at their headquarters in Intramuros, Manila.
Palma called on all Filipinos to join hands in the prayer rally to fight irregularities in the government.
“We call on all Filipinos of goodwill, especially among our Catholic faithful, not to stand idly by in this moment of truth. Let us be concerned and let this concern be manifested in our assiduous search for the truth in the spirit of prayer and solidarity,” the CBCP said.
Palma had earlier expressed the episcopal conference’s solidarity with Edsa Tayo protest, which was organized as a prayer vigil to press the Aquino administration to abolish the pork barrel and abandon acts of political patronage.
EDSA Tayo organizer Junep Ocampo reiterated that their event on Sept. 11 is an inter-faith prayer vigil and not a political rally, but groups in other parts of the country are also preparing their own events to synchronize with Edsa Tayo.
In Pagadian City, civil society leader Sultan Maguid Maruhom organized an inter-faith forum on the pork barrel system and how it is embedded in the Aquino administration’s General Appropriations Act of 2014.
“We are set to go on Sept. 11 in solidarity with Edsa Tayo,” Maruhom said in a communication posted on Facebook on the forum that will be held in front of C3 Mall on Pagadian’s main thoroughfare Rizal Ave. from 1 p.m. to 5 p.m.
“[Our event] will be participated by many groups, the biggest are the Roman Catholic parishes, several schools run by the Diocese and many [civil society organizations]. It will be participated by sizable number of Protestant churches, Muslims and Subanens,” Maruhom said.
Two days after Edsa Tayo, militant groups will also hold a mass action against the pork barrel system on Sept. 13 at the Rizal Park in Manila
“We ordinary citizens and taxpayers are outraged by the shameless plunder and misuse of public funds as so far revealed in the P10-billion Napoles pork barrel scam and [Commission on Audit] audits on the congressional pork barrel funds,” the Bagong Alyansang Makabayan said in a statement.
Bayan secretary-general Renato Reyes said the protest will denounce how the pork barrel system violates the principle of checks and balances between the executive and legislative branches of government.
Meanwhile, Migrante International thanked Lacierda for making remarks that will only encourage people to join protest actions against Malacañang’s pork barrel system.
“We would like to thank Mr. Lacierda for further fuelling the rage of overseas Filipinos. His statement is clearly and obviously false bravado. More and more Filipino OFWs are expressing support for the Zero Remittance Day,” Martinez said in a statement.
The group also slammed supposed Lacierda’s attempt to preempt the Zero Remittance Day by saying that OFW’s families will be affected.
“It is simply not true, but a desperate ploy to discourage OFWs and their families from expressing their protest. Families of OFWs will not be affected by the ZRD. If anything, only the government’s one-day earnings from OFW remittances will be hit,” he said.
Martinez said that the Philippine government implements the Documentary Stamp Tax (DST) which automatically cuts 0.15% for every P200 remittance, or 30 centavos.
According to data from the Philippine Overseas Employment Administration, the government earns around $1.4 million in DST from OFW remittances monthly.
Last 2012, OFW remittances reached a whopping US$21 billion. “That’s $57.5 million a day, or P2.5 billion from which the government earns 15% for every P200 remittance. That’s just for the DST. Other taxes and cuts generated by the government from banking transactions are not yet included.”
The DST is on top of service fees charged by foreign and local banks, plus the 50 centavo per dollar margin that domestic banks are allowed to charge when paying out remittances in pesos.
“Through the DST, OFWs are also taxpayers, and they have every right to express dissent on how their hard-earned remittances are being spent by this government,” Martinez said. With Francisco Tuyay
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