Decades after the People Power Revolutions that have toppled presidents–one dictator and a convicted plunderer–Filipinos again took to the streets in anger.
Tens of thousands of Filipinos converged at Luneta Park Monday to protest the alleged misuse of public funds highlighted by the so-called “pork barrel scam.”
“This is people power,” said artist-activist Juana Change, who came to the rally dressed as a pig in a barrel. “If this is not people power, I don’t know what to call it.”
The so-called “Million People March” started via social media with an invitation for Filipinos to show anger over the corruption scandal involving dozens of lawmakers.
The gathering was soon given a venue and a date, with Pinoys agreeing to meet at the historic Rizal Park on National Heroes Day, August 26.
“Maki-baka, wag mag-baboy,” protesters chanted in unison, a wordplay on the Filipino words for cow and pig, used as a call to action against pork barrel.
“I think the last time a protest this big happened was at the height of calls to oust [former President Gloria Macapagal] Arroyo,” Kabataan Party-list Rep. Terry Ridon told Yahoo! Southeast Asia.
The protest, he said, showed that Filipinos who “have long been aware that corruption exists” cannot take the brazen acts reported in the latest pork scandal.
Investigative reports have claimed that some P10 billion worth of lawmakers’ Priority Development Assistance Funds (PDAF) have been diverted to nonexistent non-government organizations led by businesswoman Janet Lim Napoles.
The Commission on Audit gave credence to the reports but not until a manhunt has been launched against Napoles abd her brother Reynaldo Lim.
Recent revelations only fueled public outrage, which targeted not only the lawmakers involved in the scandal but also President Benigno Aquino III.
In a surprise move Friday, days before the massive protest in Luneta, Aquino reversed his earlier position and moved to abolish the PDAF.
“He’s listening. The people have spoken and he’s listening,” musician and People Power veteran Jim Paredes said, even as he urged Aquino to heed Filipinos’ call.
He noted, however, that the President can take the public outrage in two ways. “He can look at it as support for his drive against corruption or as criticism on his administration,” Paredes said.
Ridon concurred, noting that protests so far call only for Aquino to live up to his “daang matuwid (straight and righteous path)” slogan.
The militant lawmaker further urged Aquino to lead by example by scrapping his own discretionary funds and all lump sum funds.
“If the President will remain stubborn, I think he will soon face a protest not only against pork barrel but against his entire administration–against him,” Ridon said.