'Viral' expectations: Pork barrel protesters march to Luneta
MANILA - The target is at least a million, and one of the coordinators for the volunteers of the anti-pork barrel rally at Luneta Park on Monday, National Heroes' Day, is positive that the target will be met.
Despite forecasts of rain brought by tropical depression "Nando," people working behind the "Million People March" believe that groups will still flock to Manila to call for the abolition of the the Priority Development Assistance Fund (PDAF) or pork barrel.
"Palagay ko marami ang pupunta. Since I'm coordinating the volunteer marshalls now, siyempre I've been talking to the groups also. Nakikita ko na maraming grupo ang pupunta... So it looks like it will be a million people going there tomorrow, rain or shine," said coordinator for the volunteers Atty. Ram Ramos on Sunday night.
The call for a "Million People March" started as a random thought posted on Facebook by musician Ito Rapadas just weeks after reports of the alleged pork barrel scam surfaced on the news.
The call for protest was reposted by Rapada's friend Monet Silvestre, who was also angered by the pork barrel scam.
"Nagtrigger sa akin yung quality of life. E ano pa kaya 'yung mas maliliit sa akin?" Silvestre said in a recent interview.
One of the coordinators and a friend of Atty. Ramos, Peachy Bretana, also reposted the call for a "Million People March" without expecting anything big.
Eventually, the call for protest went viral on Facebook and Twitter.
"Peachy just wanted a picnic in Luneta just to express the people's anger. We never expected that it will be this big. No one expected that this will be big," Ramos said.
If successful, the Million People March will be one of the biggest, if not the first, social media-spawned protest against the abuse of public funds.
Atty. Ramos added that even people from key cities in different provinces and even OFWs abroad will hold simultaneous protests, other than the one that will be held in Luneta.
"Remember this is not going to happen just here in Luneta this will happen in several different cities and key cities in the Philippines and also abroad. So marami ito," he said.
The Million People March is expected to start at 9:00 a.m., as agreed by majority of the groups that will join the protest.
Atty. Ramos reiterated that the Million People March is not organized by one group alone, but an effort by the citizens angered by the pork barrel scam.
"This is an effort by the citizenry. There is no group or organization that really started this," he said.
The protest comes days after President Benigno Aquino III said it is time to abolish the pork barrel and promised changes will be made in how funds are coursed to projects.
Aquino's statement was met with mixed response. While some Filipinos lauded the move, critics said the government will only cloak the PDAF in another name, and not abolish it at all, despite a scandal involving businesswoman Janet Lim-Napoles, where billions of pesos of pork funds were allegedly diverted into "ghost projects" by fake organizations.