The Million People March to Scrap Pork Barrel has become the official announcement and update Facebook page for individuals and groups in the Philippines or abroad who are organizing anti-pork mass actions. It posts these in a calendar with the details of the protest activity in a particular date and location.
The Never Porkget/Level Up rally on September 21 was the fourth rally after the August 26 Million People March event. The morning saw the rallyists at the Luneta, who later marched to Mendiola in the afternoon. Of course, Mendiola reverberates with recent political memories -- the student protests of the First Quarter Storm.
This was organized by the Abolish Pork Movement, a coalition of 32 multi-sectoral groups such as Bayan, Gabriela, Anak Pawis, Kabataan, All UP Workers Union and Alliance of Health Workers, Artista Kontra-Korapsyon, National Council of Churches in the Philippines, among others, working together to push for the abolition of the pork barrel system; the prosecution of those involved in the PDAF scandal; and the allocation of pork barrel funds to social services.
September 21 is the day forty-one years ago that activists of martial law vintage will never forget. The pun Never Porkget virtually connects the plunder during the 14-year Marcos dictatorship and the various guises of pork barrel under the post-People Power regimes.
“The reason why we are protesting today is because all succeeding regimes after Marcos failed to stamp out bureaucrat plunder and government abuse,” Dr. Carol Pagaduan-Araullo said when she opened the program. “The pork barrel scam reminds us how little has changed from the time of the dictator.”
Rally speakers included National Artist for Literature Bienvenido Lumbera, Archbishop emeritus Oscar Cruz and celebrity activist Mae Paner more popularly known as Juana Change.
Lumbera recounted to the younger generation how it was during the dictatorship and urged everyone to never forget the lessons of martial law.
Archbishop Cruz expressed hope to see when the guilty will go to prison and when the money will be returned. In jest, he told the crowd to remember his pick-up lines: “Ano ibig sabihin ng pork barrel? Kababuyan. Ano ibig sabihin ng pork barrel scam? Pambababoy. Ano ibig sabihin ng ayaw kong alisin ang pork barrel? Baboy ako.”
On the other hand, Juana Change challenged the protestors to bring friends to the next rally. “We need to level up,” she said, urging everyone to be politically conscious to effect changes in the government. She was in costume: orange prisoner garb with a ball chain, and a saw printed with ‘Guilty’ on her head.
Musical artists provided inspirational and patriotic songs: singer and theater actress Monique Wilson, The Ryan Cayabyab Singers, Jograd dela Torre (his ‘Kawatan’ is a crowd favorite in all the four rallies since August 26), Daryl Shy, Jess Santiago, the Pak Yaw duo, and the Redemptorist seminarians.
While the rally was going on in Mendiola, the Good Samaritan United Methodist Church in Quezon City had their Pork Barrel Forum, where former Chief Justice Reynato Puno spoke of the pork barrel as an “evil” that should be abolished. The College of Bishops signed a paper titled “God Will Guide the Nation: A Call for Righteous Governance,” asking everyone to “walk the path of righteousness” where --
- "Righeousness requires humility, transparency and accountability. For we are simply stewards of the riches of God and of our nation, not absolute possessors or owners.
- "Righteousness requires vigilance, serious search for truth, and enactment of laws that ensure free access to information and compel those in office to make public their administration of funds.
- "Righteousness requires doing what is right, punishing the guilty but freeing the innocent, whether they are powerful and mighty or meek and lowly.
- "Righteous governance should be the plumb line for all those who seek public office. Public service is a public trust as well as a God-given responsibility."
Other protest actions were organized by various groups for the rest of the month. On September 25, there wase an interfaith gathering for peace in Mindanao and the abolition of the pork barrel at the Quezon Memorial Circle, which is being organized by the National Ulama Council of the Philippines, National Council of Churches in the Philippines, and the Philippine Council of Evangelical Churches.
On September 29, there was a “Ride to Abolish ALL Pork!” from the People Power Monument through EDSA, and in Cebu, the Coalition against Pork Barrel System will have an interfaith prayer and anti-pork program at Fuente Osmeña.
“As long as the pork barrel system remains, the protest rallies will continue,” Bayan Muna Partylist Representative Neri Colmenares said when he closed the Never Porkget event at Mendiola.