Philippines Church Leaders Help Kick off Petition against Pork-Barrel Spending

By Viehland, N. J. | National Catholic Reporter, September 12, 2014 | Go to article overview

Philippines Church Leaders Help Kick off Petition against Pork-Barrel Spending


Viehland, N. J., National Catholic Reporter


MANILA, PHILIPPINES * A nationwide campaign for 10 million signatures to pass a bill that will abolish the pork-barrel system kicked off here in Luneta Park Aug. 25 with a rally co-organized with the Association of Major Religious Superiors in the Philippines.

The campaign is part of an effort to enact a law drafted through a "people's initiative" that would prohibit all forms of pork-barrel budgeting, explained Benedictine Sr. Mary John Mananzan, co-convener of Abolish Pork Movement group.

"Even when the court declared that legislators' Priority Development Assistance Fund or President Benigno Aquino's Disbursement Acceleration Program unconstitutional, the officials can put in the budget millions of pesos of discretionary funds by other names," the nun told thousands of people gathered at the park.

Police estimated that 5,000 people were at Luneta during the 7 a.m. Mass, but organizer Renato Reyes Jr., secretary general of New Patriotic Alliance, tweeted that 20,000 people came.

Rally participants earlier in the day split up to sign the petition at designated tables for cities where they are registered as voters. Others watched a program to commemorate last year's Million People March against the Priority Development Assistance Fund after employees of Janet Lim-Napoles revealed that 10 billion pesos (nearly US$228 million) of these funds were released to legislators and their staffs and to Lim-Napoles through bogus nongovernmental organizations, supposedly for projects.

"We define pork barrel as any undesignated lump sum amount that would be placed under the discretion of one to three persons," Mananzan said. "We do not like this because this is the source of corruption and irregularities, political patronage and other problems."

She said anti-pork activists believe there should not be any such funds, with a few exceptions that are "really. really needed by the country"

Mananzan said the campaign seeks 10 million voters' signatures, even though the law requires signatures of 3 percent of voters in every legislative district, or 6 million signatures. The petition asks the Commission on Elections to conduct a referendum on the proposed people's initiative bill titled An Act Abolishing the Pork Barrel System."

A People's Congress of more than 1.000 participants from church, political and civil society groups formally launched the bill in Cebu City. southeast of Manila, Aug. 23. If ratified, it will abolish the presidential and congressional pork barrel, mandate line-item budgeting, prohibit and criminalize lump-sum discretionary funds. and penalize violators with up to 10 years imprisonment and perpetual disqualification from holding public office.

Bishops who could not join the People's Congress sent messages of solidarity and support. More than 70 members of the Catholic Bishops Con-ference of the Philippines voted to promote the movement. Mananzan said. …

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