THOMASIANS joined thousands of angry citizens in the Million People March last Aug. 26, calling for the abolition of “pork barrel” amid revelations of massive theft of public funds involving lawmakers and bogus nongovernment organizations.

UST Rector Fr. Herminio Dagohoy, O.P. said Thomasians should support the clamor for accountability and justice in the pork barrel scam, which he described as a “national concern.”

"We are all taxpayers and we should be angry that our taxes are not spent in the proper way. We want accountability [and] transparency in the use of public funds," Dagohoy told the Varsitarian during the protest at Rizal Park.

Public outrage at the scam involving the siphoning of lawmakers’ Priority Development Assistance Funds or PDAF to fake nongovernment organizations linked to businesswoman Janet Lim-Napoles snowballed into the Rizal Park rally, which was coordinated by a loose group of “netizens.”

President Benigno S. Aquino III tried to douse growing anger by announcing three days earlier that it was time to abolish the PDAF, only to say that it would be replaced by a “new mechanism.” Before his speech, the President was insistent on keeping the pork barrel scheme, which he had used to sway Congress into supporting his agenda.

Dagohoy, a certified public accountant, said the PDAF should be removed completely from the national budget, not replaced by a new scheme. "It’s the same thing. They just [chopped] the liempo and [turned] it into bacon," the Rector said.

Central Student Council President Miyuki Morishita praised the turnout of Thomasians in the Million People March, and said this was an indication of the University’s social consciousness.

READ
Spellbound

Public anger did not subside even after the surrender of Napoles to President Aquino last Aug. 28, amid criticisms that the scam brains was being given “special treatment” by the government. From Malacañang, Napoles was taken by the President’s party to Camp Crame, and then brought by palace officials to an air-conditioned room at Makati City Jail last Aug. 29. She was transferred to Fort Sto. Domingo in Sta. Rosa, Laguna last Sept. 1. Her detention facility had housed personalities who had committed high crimes, like ex-president Joseph Estrada, Sen. Gringo Honasan and rebel leader Nur Misuari.

‘Bayanihan’ needed

Manila Archbishop Luis Antonio Cardinal Tagle, who went to Rizal Park to show his support to the netizen-led rally, called for bayanihan among Filipinos to root out corruption.

“When we say bayanihan, it means we become heroes together,” he said in his message. “Let us prove that Filipinos are noble anywhere in the world. We are noble because we fear God, respect life, value our neighbors, show concern for our country and care for the environment.”

Several Catholic organizations such as the Knights of Columbus, as well as religious congregations, also joined the rally.

Fr. Anton Pascual, president of Radio Veritas, said apathy among citizens was the primary reason for a corrupt government. “We have a tendency to become too relaxed, passive and apathetic. That is why government officials take advantage of us. Whoever we elect to a government position, if we do not keep an eye on them, they will become corrupt,” Pascual said in his homily during a Mass before the start of the rally.

READ
Pharmacy collaborates with Thailand universities

But Pascual said small-scale corruption among individuals engenders corruption in Philippine society. “Our society is corrupt because we ourselves are corrupt. When our personal interest is at stake, we become corrupt, too, which is why we need to pray for conversion not only of politicians, but conversion of every Filipino,” he said.

Meanwhile, UST alumnus and NBN-ZTE deal whistleblower Rodolfo Noel “Jun” Lozada said the movement was a blessing from God and should serve as an eye opener. “This is very important so that not only the people but also the government could see that God’s grace has come upon us, that the spirit of truth has opened the eyes of the people,” said Lozada in an interview with the Varsitarian.

Marches were also held in different parts of the country, particularly Cebu, Iloilo, Davao, and Zamboanga. Filipinos in other countries such as Australia and the United States took part online.

Also present were Archbishop Emeritus Oscar Cruz, activist Juana Change who dressed as “Janet Bariles-Napoles,” several celebrities, and former chief justice Renato Corona who left after being booed by the crowd.

LEAVE A REPLY

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.