It is their first time to attend a protest rally to add their voice to the clamor against the pork barrel, and it became a learning experience as well.
By ANNE MARXZE D. UMIL
MANILA – The mobilization for the abolition of the pork barrel system is continuing to gain momentum as President Benigno S. Aquino III remains deaf to the call for its total abolition.
The Forward March on Friday, Sept. 13 mobilized not only groups that consistently bring people’s issues in the streets but also first timers who went to the rally to express and voice out their disgust over scandals and corruption in the Aquino administration.
“I really want to participate in the people’s movement (for the abolition of pork barrel). It is important to show the youth’s support to this issue so the government will know that we too are aware of what is going on in our country,” said Abegail Laguinday, 17, first year BS Education student in Philippine Christian University (PCU).
Laguinday and 20 of her classmates went to Forward March in Luneta to support the people’s calls for the abolition of the pork barrel system and to re-channel the funds to basic social services. It is Laguinday and her classmate’s first time to participate in a protest action.
Laguinday said that as future teachers, she said it is only right to stand for the future of children. “I was a volunteer teacher for street children and I saw how eager they are to learn. They are willing to walk from Mall of Asia to Malate where we teach them if our service car has no more space to accommodate them,” Laguinday told Bulatlat.com. That is why, she said, the government should rchannel the pork barrel to social services like education.
The Forward March followed the Million People March last Aug. 26 and the Edsa protest lead by Church groups on Sept. 11.
Many youth groups and students from different schools in Metro Manila participated in the Forward March. “Today the present generation of the youth disproved the myth of apathy and has gone full-force to denounce the continued existence of the pork barrel system,” said Victor Villanueva, spokesman of Youth Act Now, an alliance of youth and students against corruption and pork barrel.
‘It’s the people’s money’
Joanna Bolanio, 17, taking Business Management in Eulogio “Amang” Rodriguez Institute of Science and Technology (EARIST) joined for the first time the protest action against the pork barrel system. “I have a sister who is working and she said that the biggest deduction in her salary is the tax. But looking at the government’s social services like education, it is obvious that our money was not spent on where it is supposed to. I am here not only because of my sister but also for my parents and other people who are paying their taxes,” she told Bulatlat.com.
She added that the Filipino people, especially those who are underprivileged should be prioritized.
“They (politicians who are involved in the scandal) are benefitting from the people’s money. But the money they spend for luxury is not theirs,” said Syd Austria, 16, Mass Communication student of St. Scholastica’s College. She believes that the pork barrel system should be abolished and the funds should be re-channeled to social services.
Geraldine Morales, 25, BS Education of PCU also said the same. “They should return what they stole from the people and use it for those who needed it the most.”
“While they are becoming richer, the poor are getting poorer,” Clarisse Calendas, 17 BS Education of PCU told Bulatlat.com.
Mary Jane de Jesus, 17, Business Administration from EARIST said that the corruption, the expose’ on how the public funds were misused should unite the Filipino people. “It is time for us, especially the youth, the future of the nation, to be a part of the movement for change.”
A learning experience
It was also the first protest action attended by Donna Marie, 19, third year Political Science student from the St. Scholastica’s College. She was surprised but happy with her experience. “I was overwhelmed to find out that we too can speak out (against pork barrel) without being constricted,” she told Bulatlat.com. She said that she learned something socially relevant like how the pork barrel or the Priority Development Assistance Fund (PDAF) was being misused.
“Today I realized that it was worth it going to rallies and voice out what you feel and get to know things that concerns the Filipino people like the PDAF,” she told Bulatlat.com.
During the rally, youth solon Terry Ridon of Kabataan Partylist discussed how the funds allotted for the pork barrel could benefit the masses if the funds are re-channeled to social services like health, education and housing.
“Our movement, however they want to suppress it will continue until the government heeds the people’s call. It like a river that will continue to flow and will finds its way to the ocean,” said Father Joe Dizon of Solidarity Philippines during the Interfaith on Luneta.
“More and more people from all walks of life are disgruntled and angered by the turn of events. Expect the youth to be at the forefront of dissent in more and more demonstrations in the coming days as we continue the strong public opposition to the bankrupt system of government that has not only robbed billions of taxpayers’ money but also worsened the already bleak future of the youth and our nation,” Villanueva said.