Anti-pork bill launched-A A +A
Sunday, August 24, 2014
CEBU. Cebu Archbishop Jose Palma (right) leads the signing of the petition that seeks to abolish the pork barrel system at the Plaza Independencia in Cebu City. (Alan Tangcawan)
CEBU CITY -- Close to 2,000 delegates from various sectors nationwide attended the National People’s Congress Saturday, where a proposal to abolish the pork barrel through a people’s initiative was introduced.
In his speech, Cebu Archbishop Jose Palma said he was happy to see the conference room (at the Mariners’ Court) filled with representatives from various regions, a sign that people are becoming more mature.
Palma said that despite his many concerns, he found the people’s initiative to be an important cause for the church to take up because the issue of pork barrel being declared unconstitutional by the Supreme Court (SC) must be put into the coffin.
As to why the church is involved in the people’s initiative, Palma read the line of Pope Francis as quoted by Catholic Bishops’ Conference of the Philippines (CBCP) president Lingayen-Dagupan Archbishop Socrates Villegas.
Pope Francis said: “None of us say I have nothing to do with this government. I am responsible for their governance. I have to do my best in participating in politics.”
Palma praised those who led and helped in the people’s initiative to stop the illegal Priority Development Assistance Fund (PDAF), Disbursement Acceleration Program (DAP) and all forms of pork barrel, especially those who will be gathering the needed signatures.
“The real hero is willing to sacrifice for his/her love of the country. It is difficult to gather signatures of at least three percent in every district, but we can do it,” Palma said.
After Palma’s speech, Sr. Mary John Mananzan of the Religious of the Virgin Mary read the “Declaration of Unity of the People’s Congress” titled “Stand Up! Sign Up!”
“Today, we formally launch the proposed People’s Initiative Bill, ‘An Act Abolishing the Pork Barrel System.’ Under the Constitution, the power to enact laws is no longer exclusively vested in Congress.
The sovereign people can directly exercise the power to legislate under Republic Act 6735, which provides for a system of initiative and referendum,” she said.
Lawyer Rex Fernandez said that if the anti-pork barrel law is ratified by the people, this abolishes the presidential and congressional pork barrel, mandates line-item budgeting, prohibits and criminalizes lump sum discretionary funds, penalizes violators with six years and one day to 10 years imprisonment and perpetual disqualification from holding public office.
The signatories of the petition to enact this law, which is addressed to the Commission on Elections (Comelec), were led by Mananzan and Msgr. Romualdo Kintanar of the Cebu Metropolitan Cathedral and all the delegates.
Convenor Marc Canton said they need at least three percent of the signatures in every legislative district, or an equivalent of six million signatures in the 234 districts in the country.
Although he failed to attend the National People’s Congress, Archbishop Villegas sent a message.
The Integrated Bar of the Philippines (IBP), represented by national president lawyer Vic Joyas, said the group supports the people’s initiative.
He said the group has 60,000 members throughout the country with 85 local chapters.
During the inter-faith prayer, Nejeeb Mufti Razul of the Muslim sector said: “God will not change the condition of the people unless the people choose to change the conditions for themselves.”
Dilaab Foundation executive director Fr. Melo Diola read all the messages from bishops all over the country who failed to come.
The campaign to gather signatures started at 3 p.m. at the Plaza Independencia. By 5 p.m., they had reportedly gathered 5,000 signatures.
Canton said the gathering of signatures will continue every day in the entire country until they get the 10 million signatures.
The signatures will be submitted to the Comelec, which will review and examine if the signatures are genuine. (EOB of Sun.Star Cebu)
Published in the Sun.Star Cebu newspaper on August 24, 2014.