MANILA - As critics of President Aquino went to Luneta to protest against pork barrel, the Disbursement Acceleration Program (DAP) and Charter change, personalities linked to President Aquino, as well around 400 delegates of 167 groups supporting him gathered at the Ateneo de Manila University to kick off consultations on how they can best help the administration pursue its reforms.
The twin gatherings come a day before the House of representatives begins separate deliberations on 4 impeachment complaints against Aquino and a resolution aimed at amending the 1987 Constitution.
Koalisyon ng Mamamayan Para sa Reporma (KOMPRe) organizers said Charter change and extending the President's term is not on their agenda, although their battlecry is continuity of reforms that Aquino started.
Some of their members include personalities linked to the Aquino administration: incumbent Movie Television Review and Classification Board (MTRCB) member Leah Navarro and former Tourism Secretary Alberto Lim.
President Aquino recently expressed openness to amending the Constitution to allow him to have a longer stay in office, aside from clipping the powers of the Supreme Court that earlier declared his DAP as unconstitutional.
Navarro, however, said "It is not an issue here for us; we believe this administration will end in 2 years. People will have to say whether they like it or not."
KOMPRe co-convenor Peter Perfecto said, "Hindi lang si PNoy pwedeng magtuloy ng reporma."
“When KOMPRe, when we started planning, Cha-cha had not cropped up. Charter change is not on the agenda, term extension is not on the agenda," lead convenor Karina Constantino David said.
David added that she doesn't think another term in office for Aquino will solve the problems of the country.
Asked if Kompre will instead back a presidential candidate in 2016, David said, "Two points: 2016 is down the road far away. As far as we're concerned, we want to concentrate on reforms that can be done now and faster. Second, we among ourselves agree we will support political candidates later down the road who are candidates who will continue the 'tuwid na daan.'"
KOMPRe's call for reform continuity is reminiscent of the calls by the People's Initiative for Reform Modernization and Action (PIRMA) during the Ramos administration and Sigaw ng Bayan during the Arroyo administration.
The two earlier groups, however, also espoused constitutional amendments to allow the incumbent president to stay longer in office -- something KOMPRe officials say it is not.
As convenor of the Black and White Movement, Navarro was critical of then President Gloria Arroyo.
Navarro now defends the Aquino administration's record. "Huwag naman ho natin i-generalize na walang bumababa na benepisyo sa mga mahihirap. Kung tututusin po natin, nagwo-work na ang CCT. Nagiging mas maganda ang overall health ng ating kabataan dahil sa CCT at PhilHealth. Lahat ng breakout room na nakikita niyo, may workshops na nangyayari. Pwedeng sabihin ng mga grupong ito, 'sa area namin ano kulang.'"
Asked about the anti-pork rally in Luneta, Navarro replied, "May oras pag-rally. May oras na pwede kang anti. May oras din na kailangan 2 years na lang si Presidente, kailangan paspasan mga reporma…"
"Nung panahon ni Gloria, lahat kami anti- dahil 'di tayo pinapakinggan. Maganda ngayon, pinapakinggan kami. 'Di na parang fashionable maging anti. Maganda maging proactive citizens tayo. For me, it's very important you bring your hinaing sa gubyreno para marinig nila. What they need is trust. We don’t have trust," she said. "Why do we not give a bit of trust that this administration isn't over? May 2 years pa. Don't tell me now nothing will be done."
KOMPRe also maintained it is not meant to counter the Luneta rally for a People's Initiative against pork barrel.
David said that KOMPRe will assess Aquino's social contract -- his 2010 campaign platform -- and look at what else they can suggest to push reforms forward.
Their suggestions will be made to the Aquino administration, whose representatives joined them later in the day.
“Our proposals this afternoon will be conveyed to a few members of Cabinet for conveying to the President. We expect to sit down and work with government to pursue these reforms," she said.
David added that the event in Luneta "is an indicator that democracy is alive, people can speak their minds."
"Sino enemies ng reforms? Very obvious: the people who are both political leaders, as well as other leaders who oppose some of the reforms already here. There are people opposing GPBP (grassroots participatory budgeting program). We believe and I think some of our panelists here, we believe for the first time amounts of money are set aside for people at the barangay level to plan out the projects. People who attack grassroots budgeting, those who attack the CCT, those who insist they want a say even if not part of executive branch on how money is spent," she said.
David said their choice of day as their launch date was only meant to maximize the National Heroes' Day holiday.
"When you plan a collective undertaking, whether rally or conference, you choose dates when people are free,“ she said.
KOMPRe came out firmly against PDAF but expressed opposition to the Supreme Court’s presumption of bad faith when it came to the implementation of projects under the DAP.
The Aquino administration has seen its popularity drop in recent months over the DAP, as well as its response to natural disasters, the economy, and rising criminality.
YELLOW SHIRTS, YELLOW RIBBONS
Some of the convenors wore yellow shirts and yellow ribbons.
Allies of the President recently launched a yellow ribbon campaign to boost his support.
David, however, said they are not extensions of the administration.
"Meron sa amin nakasuot ng ribbon, merong hindi. We are pro-reform, the reforms that the Noynoy administration is instituting. We are pro that. Are we extensions of administration? No, we are not."
"This is independent of government," Lim said. "This group, as it has been said, we support reforms initiated by government. We want these to be sustained even beyond 2016. We're here for the long haul, not just this administration but beyond 2016."
Among those came were Social Welfare Secretary Dinky Soliman, Presidential political adviser Ronald llamas, Interior Secretary Mar Roxas, Transportation Secretary Jun Abaya, Socioeconomic Planning Secretary Arsenio Balisacan, and Presidential spokesperson Edwin Lacierda.
LIBERAL PARTY'S COMMITMENTS
Roxas assured KOMPRe that the Liberal Party is committed to passing the anti-political-dynasty law and the Freedom of Information law.
The former could potentially affect the family of the only declared candidate in the 2016 presidential election, Vice-President Jejomar Binay,who defeated Roxas in 2010.
Binay's son and daughters are mayor of Makati and members of Congress.
Roxas also told KOMPRe that they are all together on the "daang matuwid."
He also defended his agency's P20-billion GPBP, which is allegedly the pork barrel of local government units.
Abaya, another LP official, also declared he will ride the MRT-3, which has been suffering from various problems in recent weeks.