(Updated 7:45 p.m.) As thousands flocked to the Luneta park in Manila to call for the abolition of pork barrel funds, smaller simultaneous protests took place around the Philippines on Monday.
Among the protest actions against the PDAF, or the Priority Development Assistance Fund, were those held in several provinces such as Palawan, Cebu, Davao, Iloilo, and Negros Occidental.
As of 10:30 a.m. Monday, the situation in other places in the country was peaceful, according to Philippine National Police (PNP) spokesman Senior Superintendent Reuben Theodore Sindac.
In Palawan, around 800 people, most of them clad in white, participated in a solidarity walk at the Puerto Princesa City Baywalk, Serge Pontillas, one of the rallyists, told GMA News Online in a phone interview.
“Initially, only around 200 confirmed their attendance [on Facebook], but around 800 attended this morning,” he said.
“We just walked around the baywalk,” he added. “After that, we had singing of the national anthem and a prayer.”
Pontillas said they felt it was vital for the residents to join the nationwide rally as Palawan is locked in a wealth-sharing dispute with the national government over the Malampaya funds, the supposed misuse of which is being blamed on fugitive businesswoman Janet Lim-Napoles, the alleged mastermind in the P10-billion pork barrel scam.
“It is still under investigation, but the misuse of the Malampaya funds... the value is bigger than the P10 billion pork barrel scam,” he said.
About P900 million on Malampaya funds that were supposed to be distributed among areas affected by Typhoon Pepeng and Ondoy in 2009 were allegedly funneled to Napoles’s bogus non-government organizations.
“Hindi natin alam kung saan nalagay ang pondo,” Pontillas said. “Ang yaman pala natin, pero nasaan?”
Malampaya is a natural gas field located in the West Philippine Sea, off northwest Palawan. Natural gas from it feeds three power plants with a combined capacity of 2,700 megawatts equivalent to 40 percent of Luzon’s power generation requirements.
“Palawan is fighting for the funds because sa amin galing ang natural resources,” Pontillas stressed.
'Pork barrel' song, Zumba, fun run
In Cebu City, around 4,000 people joined the march from Fuente Osmeña Circle to Plaza Independencia, according to a report on GMA News TV's “Balitanghali.”
During the rally, Cebuano musician Budoy entertained the rallyists with a song called “Chop the Pork,” which comes with dance steps, the report said.
The protesters included members of the groups Legal Alternatives for Women Center Inc., Cebu UP Students, Brotherhood of Christian Businessmen and Professionals, and MAGDALO, said Sindac.
Meanwhile, in Davao City, almost a thousand people, including members of non-government organizations, religious and militant groups, students and faculty, rallied at the Rizal Park, according to a separate “Balitanghali” report.
Aside from holding placards and streamers calling for the abolition of the pork barrel system, the rallyists also paraded a live pig. Other activities include performing Zumba, a dance workout, while chanting “Tama na, pork barrel, i-abolish na!”
On the other hand, some progressive groups called for the re-channeling of pork barrel funds to significant projects such as education, the report added.
Meanwhile, in Vigan City, almost a thousand people, including 20 seminarians from the Immaculate Concepcion School of Theology, participated in a run as a protest against pork barrel, “Balitanghali” also reported.
In Iloilo City, almost a thousand people held their own rally, another “Balitanghali” report said. They also created a large Philippine flag out of small papers, with the stand of each person on pork barrel written on them.
Initial reports from the PNP gave the following estimates for protests in other cities:
- In Olongapo City, around 500 people, led by Mayor Rolen Paulino, gathered at Marikit Park.
- At least 570 people staged a rally at Bacolod Public Plaza in Bacolod City, and in front of a cathedral in Roxas City, Capiz.
- In Dagupan City, Pangasinan, around 60 members of non-government organizations and students, led by Father Simon Bistro, gathered at the City Plaza.
- In Santiago City, Isabela, around 20 members of a cause-oriented group converged at Mabini Circle, while 50 bikers assembled in Aritao, Nueva Ecija.
- In Surigao City, around 300 members of militant groups and NGOs gathered at the Rizal Park.
Some cities abroad with a large Filipino population, like Hong Kong and Los Angeles, also held similar protests.
In Los Angeles, Filipinos conducted a protest in front of Ritz-Carlton Tower, where the Napoles family allegedly owns a $2-million condominium unit, according to a report on GMA News TV's "News To Go."
In Hong Kong, Filipino workers gathered as early as Sunday in a picnic to protest the pork barrel scam, according to GMA News stringer Azon Canete's report on "News To Go." — with Amanda Fernandez/RSJ/YA/KBK, GMA News