No anti ‘pork’ rally in Bukidnon – why?

MALAYBALAY CITY (Bukidnon News/27 August) In the run up to the August 26 nationwide anti pork barrel protest dubbed Million People March, Gov. Jose Ma. R. Zubiri Jr. issued a memorandum encouraging local government units’ officials and employees to join and support the nationwide protests.

But when President Benigno Aquino III agreed to abolish the controversial Priority Development Assistance Fund (PDAF) on Friday, Zubiri aborted the local rally.

On August 26 while Filipinos around the country, including Overseas Filipino Workers in some offshore sites, made noise against pork barrel, the supposed venues for the event in the province, the Freedom Park and the Capitol Grounds here, were empty except for athletes practicing for sports fests.

Malaybalay Bishop Jose Cabantan said Aquino’s statement Friday seemed to lean on reforming the PDAF only.

“The people should have pursued the rally instead,” he said, adding the Catholic Bishops Conference of the Philippines National Secretariat for Social Action (NASSA) called for abolition. (See related story)

Most government officials and employees asked for this story said they took the cue from Zubiri’s cancelation.

“It was cancelled because, anyway, President Aquino, already agreed to scrap the pork barrel,” lawyer Oliver Owen Garcia said in his reaction. Garcia recently won as president of the Philippine Councilors’ League (PCL-Bukidnon chapter). Ronelo Alvarez, DILG provincial director, said they, too, got the message that Zubiri cancelled it.

Zubiri, in a radio message on August 21, has called for the abolition of the pork barrel as it is being abused. He asked support for the rally set on Aug. 26. But Radyo Abante reported that he cancelled it on Friday after Aquino agreed to abolish PDAF.

The cancellation drew mixed reactions.

“It’s pathetic. It shows how we disregard what’s happening in our country,” Roland Rivera, a school teacher, said via text message.

“It was purely political strategy (the cancellation) to manipulate the people,” alleged Emma Molina, chairperson of Barog Bukidnon, a coalition of civil society organizations, non-government organizations, and people’s organizations pushing for good governance.

But Barog Bukidnon, a newly organize group, also did not initiate its own rally after Zubiri aborted his plan.

Molina said earlier, that although they were apprehensive of anti-PDAF rallies organized by politicians, “they were willing to join and listen to the issues.”

“LE” posted on Facebook group Pulitika sa Bukidnon hailing Zubiri’s position against pork barrel.

“I am delighted to know that you are against pork barrel. Knowing your stand is a good start. But please do not stop there. Please make good of your intentions for the interest of the people. And yes, no matter what you do, you will have your critics,” she added.

Sources said aside from Zubiri, nobody dared to organize (and abort) an anti-pork rally.

Ma. Easterluna Canoy of the Kitanglad Integrated NGOs said “sadly Bukidnon still needs a leader who can galvanize people to action or non-action.”

Others said they were against pork barrel but were only waiting for someone to initiate the move.

“That’s the same question from here. Why was there no rally here? Because no one organized? Is it the same as others who only waited?” one source who responded to a request for comment said.

Whatever happened to NGOs?
Bienvinido “Bobo” Narciso of Abag Kalambuan Inc. responded through text that the real problem in Bukidnon is that non-government organizations and civil society organizations are no longer sensitive to critical national issues.

He said NGOs in the province are focused on constructive engagement like the bottom up budgeting (BUB) process of the government so there is less time watching other issues.

He said not many are even observing in the Bids and Awards Committee (BAC), which is also an important function as most NGOs are now engaged in projects.

Narciso’s group, a non-government organization, is implementing a project since 2010 dubbed as Livelihood Enhancement and Assistance for Development of Tri-people in Kalilangan, a town in the boundary of Bukidnon and Lanao del Sur.

Fr. Richard Ella, parish priest of the Our Lady of Mediatrix parish in the remote Upper Pulangi area of Malaybalay City said he is against the pork barrel.
“But as to your question why there was no rally in Bukidnon, your guess is as good as mine,” he added.

He said he will support future initiatives in the province. He added that he hope it will be part of the agenda of the priest’s next monthly meeting.

“I have always been against pork barrel, ever since I learned that that it’s not subject for COA (Commission on Audit) review,” Bonzenti Panganiban, president of the Bukidnon Photographers and Bloggers Society, said.

He stressed that if those subjected to COA post audit can get away with corruption, what more those that don’t pass through their check.

But Panganiban, who is also an executive of a state-owned financial institution, said he hesitated from initiating a rally.

In Manila, reports said the rally was initiated through the social network.  Although local social network netizens did not stage a rally, they expressed their views on the net.

In “Pulitika sa Bukidnon”, one of those with the biggest following, “MGVC” created a thread with the opening comment saying she finds it funny that politicians campaign against pork barrel when they were the ones who used to promote it.  Her post drew 79 comments.

Among the comments is from “KG”: “they need to prove their sincerity on that”.

“HA” also said “it should be people’s movement, not for politicians”.

But not all who responded to request for comments were sad there was no rally.

“I’m glad there is no rally. The rally is not a good way to “talk” about issues, “S.H.” a government employee said.

Others said the PDAF should not be scrapped.

Bae Inatlawan Adelina Tarino, head claimant of the Bukidnon Daraghuyan tribe in Dalwangan, Malaybalay City said the pork barrel was a big help to the indigenous peoples. She added that not all non government organizations may be like that of Napoles.

“There are those that truly serve the IP communities. We hope they will not abolish the pork barrel,” she said, adding there should be a way that it will not be prone to abuse.

Loreta Sol Dinlayan, a social science professor at Bukidnon State University, said ill mechanics should be abolished, not the PDAF.

Dinlayan admitted, however, that those who abused the PDAF should be made accountable for their actions. (Walter I. Balane/Bukidnon News.Net)