Manila: President Benigno Aquino has become the centre of criticism in an anti-corruption rally, also known as anti-pork barrel campaign, which was held by middle class groups in Makati City, the financial district on Friday.
Banners and street art work depicted Aquino as part of the lawmakers who have allegedly helped launder their development funds with the help of a private businesswoman who is now detained, through fake projects and non-existant, non-government organisations.
“I can smell something fishy with the release of funds from the Development Accelerated Programme (DAP) which is composed of savings from line agencies, to senators last October, who voted for the impeachment of former Supreme Court Chief Justice Renato Corona last May 2012,” said protester Meg Panlilio, a United States based Filipina who joined the rally in Makati City “to get the feel of what government corruption is”.
“It’s about time we change, I thought this could be done during the administration of President Aquino,” said Panlilio, adding, “It is ironic that large scale corruption in all levels of government is being revealed now, following his election campaign against corruption.”
“The extent of corruption in the Philippine government is disappointing,” said Erlinda Tan, a rich woman who joined the street protest.
“I get the impression that no one is clean in government,” she added.
It is not yet known if Filipinos will lose their trust in government with the way all kinds of plunder and malversation cases are being filed against government officials.
Earlier, Aquino expressed dismay for being associated with the alleged misuse of congressional development funds.
Earlier, his popularity rating went up because of the perception that he was part of the campaign to end pork barrel misuse.
But the budget department, which is under the president’s office, is the one that releases the allocated development funds of senators and congressmen to NGOs that have forged memorandum of agreement with local government leaders where development projects are usually implemented.
The budget department has also suggested that the DAP could be used for other expenditures, or added to the development assistance of congressmen and senators, a kind of juggling of funds without congressional approval.
“Usually, when a realignment of fund is done, it should be accompanied by an executive order issued by the president, and this executive order has a precedent from past administrations,” explained a legal experts.
So far, several legal experts have expressed their opinions that the release of DAP as funds to augment lawmakers’ development assistance funds was “illegal and not constitutional”.
The protesters continued calling for the abolition of a system in which government officials have non-discretionary funds.
Kadamay, a militant group composed urban poor people called everyone in government as part of “Pork Alliance”.
The gathering of a million signatures for the abolition of pork barrel is almost over, organisers of the protest rally said.
Protesters pushed for a tax holiday. “This should be the people’s response to massive cheating done by elected government officials,” said Josephine Cuenco, an office worker in Makati City.
Prior to the holding of the protest rally in Makati City, several militant groups launched mini-pickets and a ‘noise barrage’ in several areas in Metro Manila, resulting in a massive traffic jam.
The militant May One Movement picketed the Department of Budget and Management near Malacañang, the presidential palace.
Calls for the resignation of Budget Secretary Florencio Abad has intensified. But analysts said this could be a ploy to take away the heat from Aquino.
Some 300 police personnel were deployed in Makati City.