Tens of thousands of Filipinos gathered here to protest the abuse of public funds that allow lawmakers to allocate government money for projects in their districts.
This is locally known as pork-barrel scandal... and some of the protestors are wearing pig heads, while others mimicking pig’s noise.
Activist Evelyn Cacha is from ALAMIN, a coalition of civil society organisations, churches, NGOs in Mindoro.
”I’m one with the organizers of the event. I want to show my rage about the mismanagement and the abuse of the pork barrel.”
Media investigations have exposed a scam involving nearly 300 million US dollars of the Priority Development Assistance Fund.... locally known as the “pork barrel”.
A government audit has revealed only 20 per cent of the taxpayers’ money allocated to politicians has been spent on government projects.
That state funds were instead siphoned off to bogus NGOs and ghost projects so that politicians could pocket the money.
The call for this protest was started on social media and picked up by tens of thousands of netizens.
One of them is Calapan city judge, Manolo Brotonel.
“I was extremely disappointed. What happened was that the people whom we elected to office, whom we trusted were the ones who stole the money intended for the benefit of the people, especially the poor. The people, were robbed of their rights, were robbed of their opportunities to improve their lives.”
These protests across the country are dubbed as the biggest against the government led by President Benigno Aquino III whose centre piece is war on corruption.
A few days prior the scheduled protests, the President announced stricter mechanisms to implement projects to quell the public anger.
And he has ordered an investigation into the scam and promised to go after those who are involved.
“I’ve ordered the Department of Justice and all agencies of the executive under the inter-agency of Anti-Graft Coordinating Council to collaborate in speeding up the process... from investigation to prosecution to jailing those who should be, and the recovery of illegally acquired wealth.”
But social activist Evelyn Cacha doesn’t buy that.
“Corruption is embedded in the bureaucracy, you can’t prosecute them all. Unless it comes from a change of heart and mind among the employees, the leaders, the bureaucracy, and change is not going to happen. Also among the people... that we remain vigilant and do not condone these acts.”
Protestors across the country have raised a million signatures to pursue justice on this case.
And they promised to take the streets again if this doesn’t happen... say Ned de Guzman from a group called Brotherhood in Christian Businessmen.
”I will continue to make people aware that they have a say in this. Some are not even aware that they’re contributing money to the treasury of the country through taxes. In this sense, all of us are taxpayers.”