5,000 people say: Scrap PDAF

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Monday, September 30, 2013

CEBU CITY -- At least 5,000 people spent part of their Sunday afternoon speaking out against the pork barrel system in a rally held in Cebu City’s Plaza Independencia.

It was the third “anti-pork” rally in as many months in Cebu and was organized by a network called the Cebu Coalition Against the Pork Barrel System.

The coalition has set October 5 as their deadline for a campaign to gather signatures, which they will then send to the executive branch, Congress and the Office of the Ombudsman to express their opposition to the pork barrel.


Meanwhile, the Cebu Provincial Government learned it cannot use the P9 million from the Priority Development Assistance Fund (PDAF) of Senator Teofisto Guingona III, since it was released only last March and is thus covered by a suspension order on the use of the PDAF.

The Supreme Court (SC) suspended all uses of the PDAF in the midst of allegations that around P10 billion of it had been sent to fake non-government organizations (NGOs) by some lawmakers who colluded with businesswoman Janet Lim-Napoles.

Napoles is now being investigated for plunder and malversation of public funds, along with three senators and more than 30 other former and current government officials.

In Sunday’s rally, Marc Canton of the Movement for a Livable Cebu told reporters that the Magdalo group, who served as marshals, estimated the crowd to have reached 12,000 people.

But he also said the number of participants is less important than the energy and commitment they contribute to the campaign.

There will be education sessions with constitutional experts to propose and craft alternatives to the pork barrel system, he added.

Anti-pork barrel rally in Cebu City
PRAYING FOR AN END TO THE PORK BARREL. This is part of the anti-pork barrel rally crowd, estimated at 5,000 by Supt. Romeo Santander of the Cebu City Police Office’s Intelligence Branch, in Plaza Independencia. (Sun.Star Cebu Photo/Amper Campana)


Superintendent Romeo Santander of the City Intelligence Branch (CIB) in the Cebu City Police Office said there were over 5,000 participants.

Some 3,000 people marched from Fuente Osmeña to the Plaza Independencia, while others chose to wait in the park.

At least 100 police personnel were assigned to watch the route as early as 10 a.m. Sunday, but Santander said they encountered no difficulties.

“In fairness to the rallyists, they did not cause any trouble at all. They abided by the rules, which was really an important thing to keep the rally peaceful,” said Santander.

The rally’s speakers wondered aloud about how the pork barrel could have been spent for the greater good.

Diana Varga, who represented a group of farmers, told rally participants that part of the P10 billion could have provided farmers with fertilizers and land.

“The money should be given directly to the farmers so these would not by pocketed (by legislators),” she said in Cebuano.

Not giving up

Senior citizens said it could have paid for subsidies for the medicines, while some fishers said it could have been used to help those still coping from an oil spill that has reached Cordova town, after two vessels collided last August 16.

“The P10 billion is not easy to fathom especially for an impoverished country like the Philippines,” said Fr. Carmelo Diola, head of the Cebu church’s anti-corruption group, in his homily.

“Even more mind-boggling are people who can do much good but just try to do the appearance of good,” he said.

“Pork was intended to serve the poor,” Diola added. “Our coming here today means (we are) not giving up on our country.”

In the midst of the controversy, the Province has been trying to get some P27 million in PDAF transferred to it from the Department of Social Welfare and Development (DSWD)-Central Visayas.

The amount is what’s left from the two Special Allotment Release Orders (SARO) from Senator Guingona’s PDAF.

One SARO for P20 million, which reportedly has a balance of P18 million, was dated December 20, 2012.

But the SARO for P9 million was dated March 22 this year.

The Provincial Board previously passed a resolution for the signing of an agreement on the transfer of the P9 million.

On hold

The Supreme Court has issued a temporary restraining order on all PDAF releases this year.

In a memorandum, DSWD Secretary Corazon Soliman stated that implementation may continue only for PDAF SAROs or Notices of Cash Allocations for 2012 that were already released.

Lawyer Ramil Abing, Governor Hilario Davide III’s chief of staff, said the Province cannot use the P9 million after it verified that the SARO was dated March 2013.

The agreement will have to be put on hold, until there are changes on the use of the PDAF for 2013.

Since the PDAF is suspended for now, Representative Wilfredo Caminero (Cebu Province, 2nd district) said that legislators will recommend to the regional offices of National Government agencies to address their constituents’ needs.

“We know better the situation of our district than the other government agencies. I hope kaya nila (I hope they can do it),” Caminero told reporters.

He said that for constituents who need help from government hospitals, he tapped the Department of Health to address their concerns.

Below are real-time updates on the anti-pork barrel rally held Sunday.

(FMG/BAP/JTR/Sun.Star Cebu/Sunnex)

Published in the Sun.Star Cebu newspaper on September 30, 2013.

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