MANILA (UPDATE) – A day of protest against the alleged misuse of public funds will be held on Monday, August 26, coinciding with the National Heroes’ Day.
The protest, dubbed "A Million People's March to Luneta,” aims to show public outrage over the misuse of lawmakers' pork barrel.
"That's what a lot of people are looking at August 26 for. It's a venue for them to just vent. Let’s have a day of venting our anger but also a day to think about constructive ways to deal with this,” said Vince Lazatin, the executive director of the Transparency and Accountability Network (TAN).
The movement started on social media when the controversy surrounding the alleged P10 billion pork barrel scam broke out.
It got an overwhelming response from citizens and several civil society groups.
“It's just one lady who posted it. Many people posted to that one lady’s invitation," said Change.org’s Gang Badoy.
Groups and individuals joining the protest are not in favor of suspending the pork barrel of senators and congressmen. They want it totally scrapped and those involved in the fund misuse put behind bars.
Presidential Security Group (PSG) chief Brigadier General Ramon Mateo Dizon, meanwhile, said the scheduled gathering is not a “national security concern,” adding that the groups have the right to free speech.
"Wala naman kaming nakikitang problema diyan, there’s no concern. I’m sure the PNP can take care of it. Hindi siya national security concern. It’s a peace and order concern. They are not threatening the pres. They have the right to free speech,” he said in a text message to ABS-CBN News.
Filipinos in San Francisco, Los Angeles, and New York will also gather in their respective cities as a sign of support for the protest here in Manila.
Several militant groups in Hong Kong, led by the Bagong Alyansang Makabayan (Bayan-HK), Gabriela-HK, the Promotion of Church People's Response (PCPR-HK) and the United Filipinos in Hong Kong (UNIFIL-MIGRANTE-HK), also expressed their protest against the pork barrel system.
The groups gathered at the Philippine Consulate General to call for the prosecution of those involved in the alleged scam.
"Heads must roll and investigation and prosecution must continue regardless of who is involved -- even the president himself. The deeply entrenched system of corruption is now getting exposed in the public's eye who have been carrying the brunt of poverty and lack of social services while government officials-cum-profiteers corner the bulk of public funds for their own selfish means,” said BAYAN-HK Country Information Officer, Norman Uy Carnay, in a statement.
Several business and church groups, including TAN, Bishops-Businessmen's Conference for Human Development, Catholic Bishops' Conference of the Philippines, Citizens' Congress for Good Governance, and Makati Business Club, condemned what they called a “systemic diversion of public funds for private aggrandizement” and also called for the abolition of the pork barrel.
The groups urged authorities to investigate the issue and encouraged those linked to the alleged scam to cooperate with the probe.
In a joint statement, the groups said the scandal “shows just how vulnerable the Priority Development Assistance Fund (PDAF) is to manipulation and corruption, and exposes the utter lack of accountability among its many proponents.”
“The highest priority for government right now is to strengthen existing safeguards to ensure the judicious use of not just the PDAF, but also other sources of public funds that finance or subsidize minor and big-ticket projects,” the groups added.
Several senators are also now calling for the abolition of the pork barrel. The Senate will begin investigating the alleged misuse of the PDAF next week.
President Benigno Aquino said the anti-corruption body envisioned to be headed by former Senator Panfilo Lacson may also probe the pork barrel scam.
The President also said there is already an ongoing probe being conducted by the Department of Justice. -- With reports from Henry Omaga-Diaz and Willard Cheng, ABS-CBN News