Questions that must be answered before the rally to abolish pork barrel

I would have to say that the outrage being shown at the persisting pork barrel anomalies – at least in social media as far as I can see – is both unprecedented, and quite frankly, a bit astonishing. There are calls to assemble at the Quirino Grandstand in Luneta on August 26, 2013, to call for an abolition of the pork barrel. The organizers are aiming for at least one million participants to show the government just how fed up the people – their bosses – are that this source of corruption persists. In fact, news reports and exposes have been coming out that involvement in the pork barrel scam is not limited to just the opposition and non-allies of President Benigno Simeon Aquino III (BS Aquino). BS Aquino has also been reported to have his own pork barrel that puts all the other allotments to shame.


With that being said, there is a reason that I view street revolutions with a little bit of apprehension and even disdain every time I hear calls for them, mainly because in hindsight it is very apparent that past instances of street rallies were mainly focused on just ousting the current person in charge and not much else. There was no follow through from the people, no plan beyond the venting and outrage, no inclination to follow democratic institutions that have already been put in place, and certainly a lot of grandstanding by certain self-righteous and self-important folk.

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At this point it is not clear as to what the nature of this rally will be. I’ve seen a few accounts on Facebook that predict that this latest rally may inevitably turn out to be a “picnic”. I’ve also read a few comments that even the organizers themselves seem disorganized and unsure of what to do.

If the organizers and participants of this rally are serious about making sure that their event accomplishes something, I think there are a few questions that must be answered before they go and do their thing.

What happens after the rally?

Is there going to be anything substantial underneath all the posters, slogans, and paraphernalia?

How are the organizers of this one going to make sure that this doesn’t end up like one of those EDSA street revolutions, where after the protest, bahala na? (I bet someone’s going to say “because it’s going to be done in Luneta”) What is the plan for all the politicians who will be investigated and found to be involved in the pork barrel scam? What is the plan to make sure that the pork barrel doesn’t come back under another fancy name or, most especially, a more inconspicuous form? If the protesters get the attention of people who are sympathetic to the cause and are in positions of influence and/or power, what is the proposal for the method by which the pork barrel will be eliminated?

Who is going to back the protest up?

As much as we don’t like to admit it, the Philippines has a strong executive, top-down culture and form of governance. There are powerful influencing forces in the Philippines, and without them, the rage of the people will definitely not be enough. This is the reason why, for example, the Reproductive Health Law had been stuck for a long time in both houses of Congress. This is also the reason why the Freedom of Information (FOI) Bill keeps getting shot down.

Definitely, the validity and the power of popular support for an idea or piece of legislation is at times overestimated here in the Philippines.

How do they plan to convince others who are not yet in on the cause?

If the protest organizers are planning on getting a million people, that’s all well and good. But take into account the other 99 million, majority of whom most likely don’t have a Facebook account, how are they going to get them to care? It’s hard to tell how many of the poor even have an idea of what the pork barrel is. Quite possibly, perhaps through some sort of donation or dole-out from the local government, there have been “beneficiaries” from it who will find it difficult to see the point in having the pork barrel scrapped.

I think these are valid points that only the cynic in me (I would like to think pragmatist, though) could ever raise. Filipinos shouldn’t mistake those who ask such questions like this as wanting the whole initiative to fail; on the contrary, more than wanting it to succeed, we want to see it accomplish something where previous ones have failed. To do that, there has to be a plan and an overarching vision beyond the rally.

Well, if it really isn’t meant to accomplish something, and is just yet another forum for the disgusted 1 million to vent, well, what can I say? Life goes on in the Philippines…

29 Replies to “Questions that must be answered before the rally to abolish pork barrel”

  1. The first question I want answered is WHO exactly is organizing this? Righteous indignation is all well and good but without any critical thinking behind it, this has the potential to be co-opted once again by factions who don’t necessarily have the public’s interest at heart. We might end up exactly where we are now. Again.

    1. There is NO “WHO(specific person) that is organizing this.”

      We, the participants(TaxPayers), are the Organizers.

      We go there because Govt owes us an explination. We go there because we want them to scrap the Pork Barrel.

      Please support this cause.

      1. So it’s just as many on GRP suspected who’ve expressed their apprehension about the rally. There is no real thought behind it. Or any idea what to do after.

      2. What’s your plan if the government doesn’t give you the explanation you “deserve”? What’s the plan if they don’t scrap the pork barrel?

        There are still a lot of if’s and unanswered questions here. If you’re going to do it, at least go in there with the least amount of uncertainty possible.

  2. I have two questions when they hold such events

    1) who’s going to clean up after them? most of the time, events like this leave a lot of garbage, and most of the time, the trash stays long after the event is done.
    2) Do these people really think things will change simply because 1% (if they get to 1M) of the people assembled and said: “hey where are my taxes?”
    3) Who’s to say that the very organizers don’t have an ulterior motive? After all, both EDSA attempts ended up with zero change.
    4) Will they arrange for traffic rerouting? Roxas Boulevard is one of the major roads catering to a lot of vehicles. I’d be willing to bet this would cause major traffic. And poor mister/ miss ordinary employee suffers more.

    1. We, the participants(TaxPayers), are the Organizers in this movement.

      Several participants have already volunteered to do crowd management and traffic management.

      As responsible citizens, please throw your garbage properly. OK?

      Please support this cause.

  3. I have questions too. Assuming the pork barrel is abolished… What will replace it? I was thinking of a fully accountable/audit friendly itemized budget with complete oversight by the Commission on Audit. If reforms are to be made… COA should have total independence to control and stop abuses in graft and corruption. There is also the issue of the Ombudsman and the Sandiganbayan. Total independence from the control of the dictator must be re-established also in co-equal and co-independent bodies. What about us constituents? How will we be served in terms of livelihood projects and programs, scholarships, medical/health assistance, disaster relief, etc. etc.? Should not the pork be renamed as Constituent Assistance Plans and Programs? Fully accounted for and audited with the respective prosecution and courts ready to battle graft and corruption without fear or favor. I say selection of reputable contractors should replace these so-called NGO conduits of graft and corruption. Restore checks and balances! Down with the dictator BS Aquino! Impeach or remove him! He should not have a PHP 1 Trillion Pesos Pork Barrel. BS is the bad example and the cause of all this graft and corruption!

    1. Can’t the disbursement of these “priority development” funds be done via the existing resource allocation channels already existing in the Executive branch of government? Since the Exec branch comprises every executive and administrative post from the president and cabinet secretaries down to mayors and councilors, there is no reason why decisions surrounding the allocation of these funds cannot be made with local constituencies well-represented in the process.

      Again it goes back to the simple principle that legislators are not executives/administrators who run the operations of a country. They make and debate laws. That’s all there is to their jobs.

  4. So, what do you people suggests?
    “accept the things that we cannot change…with serenity?”U
    This blog by Mr.Farol in a way prompted me to pause.
    Teka,teka..said my thoughts.
    The Napoles’ doesn’t bother me at all.
    “Basta huwag manghihingi sa amin ang mga tao.”, gustong itulak akong sumama o sumuporta sa kilos.
    Yet,when Ted Casiño showed interest to join…ha ha ha
    ano ba ‘to?

  5. Whilst i share your overall concerns about the practicalities, and understandable cynicism regarding real achievements of the planned event, i nevertheless consider that a ‘do nothing’ approach would be far worse, and would only send another signal of subservience/acceptance to an already autocratic system/government which plunders taxpayers money at will and in so doing strengthens a system and vicious circle of criminality, elitism, impunity and dynastic rule.

    It may only be a token gesture, and not gain vociferous support from political groups/key individuals (although i am sure their absence and hypocricy will be noted!), but a journey starts with a single step and the more occasions filipinos use their collective voices rather than keep quiet the more they will mature politically and realise that continuous and organised pressure can achieve victories, albeit sometimes small and sometimes slowly, but the main point is always to do something constructive and visible, and in time become more co-ordinated and pragmatic, otherwise in the absence of demonstrable indignation/outrage, expect a false asia/sws ‘survey’ to be published showing increased trust and approval ratings for pnoy!!

    Their underlying problem lies in fragmentation and lack of time/resources/organisation, and ad hoc reactions/movements rather than such issues/causes being taken up by an established, appropriate, and credible group – if there is one.

    And it is unclear who is actually organising this event, which raises more fundamental concerns about agenda, goals, and likely success, or otherwise. A failed rally would be a backward step.

    And maybe the ‘bureaucracy’ will conveniently prevent it happening anyway!

    The issue only highlights the need for structured political parties and genuine opposition. Pork barrel itself ensures this does not happen, since every politician changes party with the wind and simply follows ‘the money’, with policies being meaningless and principles being alien. Another reason to abolish pork barrel.

    On heroes day – ironic in itself – appropriate the focus is on the cowards in government and senate/congress who have acted like traitors.

    1. Great post! We have lit a candle and it will start to brighten the minds of the Filipino people. This movement will pick up such great force that will be unstoppable. No more hiding under the cloak of authority. Shame on the people’s ‘representatives’ who have committed this economic sabotage on our nation. Even the crocs are appalled by the magnitude of these blatant and ruthless acts of thievery.

    2. I don’t advocate the “do nothing” approach either. I get the impression, however, that there are Filipinos who think “winging it” and “do nothing” are the only two options available.

      They had enough time to plan this rally, though a rally being planned 1 1/2 weeks ahead indiscreetly is a big question mark.

      The concerns you raised are valid, but there is an option to do it right the first time, meaning the organizers try to eliminate as much variability and uncertainty as possible. Doing so requires a plan that anticipates as many plausible scenarios as possible.

      Then again, this isn’t the first time; they had EDSA I, II, and others to learn from. What do the people have to show that they learned from the past?

  6. I wish that PDAF might been abolished but also fear that some politicians might used pork barrel to use in protest rallies too (like placards, LED, streamers, food, transpo to Luneta, gas, paying the media, etc.)?

  7. How much will it cost the protest rally on Monday? P100-200M if they will claimed that if could attract 1 million people (that includes food, raincoats, placards, LED [if necessary], streamers, tarp, etc.) Will the politicians are willing to use their own money or will they tempt to use the pork barrel for this democratic proccess (I know non-politicians will use their own money)?

  8. No. These are questions that must be answered after the rally and not before. Focus is key. One at a time. First, the public importance of the problem must be shown. Only after we’ve made our demands so visible that it moves the gov’t can we even begin to think about these questions.

    1. That the “pork barrel scam” is something that disgusts the public has already been established. And for the most part, the majority of regular Filipino society is united in the thinking that if it were up to them, they would ABOLISH the pork barrel. We don’t need another rally to demonstrate our opposition to something that we’ve known since the CDF was first instituted. I would rather hear what alternatives to the administration’s “business-as-usual” indifference will be proposed by the rally organisers. If they can articulate that then I might be convinced to attend. Otherwise, any gathering at the Luneta will degenerate into a hate-filled forum with Teddy Casiño and his fellow leftist screeds shouting the loudest.

      The very reason the Philippines is in this mess is the fact that not enough THOUGHT was put into the so-called “EDSA revolution” and its aftermath. Complacency and apathy replaced any genuine desire for reform. We don’t need another fiesta in the streets; give us ideas instead of hollow slogans.

      1. There is no other way to truly prove our disgust and unity in abolishing the pork barrel other than public demonstration. There is no other more tangible measure.

        Rallying is an integral part of democracy. Encouraging its genuine act is enough to promote a society that pressures and makes its government more accountable to us, the Filipino Public. The alternative is the practice of public pressure itself.

        You may look down at the EDSA revolution but there is no denying that it ousted a dictator. And if a radical leftist were to be placed on power, it will be ousted again by a society that practices demonstrations. That, to me, is enough reason to empower it. But you are right in that there could be better ideas. However, ideas shouldn’t only come from organizers, it’s everyone’s effort.

        1. I’m not discounting the events of February 1986. I was there. I was gassed. I got hit in the face when they hosed down the crowd. Without question, using non-violence to facilitate regime change IS a great achievement. What I don’t agree with is the romantic associations that Filipinos continue to have with that singular event. The reality is much more banal.

          There was no intention to stage a “sit-in protest” at the beginning. This was a coup d’état staged by Juan Ponce Enrile. When it failed, he got Cardinal Sin to bail him out of a situation he could no longer control. Cory wasn’t even in the picture; she was “praying” in Cebu. From there, events took on a life of their own. And in all likelihood, Marcos would probably have concluded that violence was his only option if the United States were not acting behind the scenes to convince him to leave.

          We’ve become so besotted with the romantic notion of “people power” that we haven’t actually gotten around to harnessing that “public spirit,” much less using it to accomplish anything worthwhile as a nation. In fact it’s become a detriment. Now we have a new issue with the government — pork barrel. And the response is to organize a rally/fiesta at the Luneta with the vague purpose, as you say, “to truly prove our disgust” and show “unity in abolishing the pork barrel” so that somehow this new “people power” will hopefully bring about change. Aside from snarling traffic in the area, there really is no expectation that anything concrete will come of this except an affirmation of something that the public has been aware of for nearly three decades; an awareness that has been expressed in various other forums.

          And please don’t tell me that the previous expressions of public indignation aren’t enough or that the government is unaware of the extent of the people’s outrage. Penoy just announced in a televised statement “Panahon na para i-abolish ang PDAF [It’s time to abolish the PDAF].” A full three days BEFORE the rally. This is obviously to appease the public. He goes on to say that the allocation of public funds through PDAF would also be abolished and CHANGED to a more transparent and “reformed” budgeting system to effectively curb corruption. The pork, in other words, is here to stay. But it will probably come in some other form that results in our political elite divvying up public funds for their use.

          So — the rally to educate the rest of society and to make the government aware of the public outrage has already been answered. What is the response? This is why I ask the organisers — What is your idea? You are asking people to come out and join something that could potentially turn violent. Will you be responsible for them if that happens? What will people take away from the rally? Will they be empowered or will the simply become more frustrated upon learning that there are still no new solutions to deal with a “servant” of the people that has failed his “bosses” miserably?

    2. But the reality is, the representatives the people voted in are not serving in their interest. They haven’t been listening all the time to matters the public deems important.

      What makes you think that when “we’ve made our demands visible”, they will listen? If they don’t, are you people just going to mount another extra-constitutional street rally to oust the politicians you yourselves had a hand in voting in?

      There is no plan going in. What makes people think there will be one coming out? Bahala na, this whole thing reeks of.

      1. But Politicians do respond to public pressure. They also respond more to what they can see with their own eyes.

        Who decided that Demonstrations are only meant for ousting governments? Promoting demonstration is in fact promoting the constitution. Under our Bill of Rights, Section 4, it states that “No law shall be passed abridging the freedom of speech, of expression, or of the press, or the right of the people peaceably to assemble and petition the government for redress of grievances.”

        If you think there is no plan then feel free to contribute your own ideas.

        1. No one is saying that rallies are strictly for regime change. That doesn’t mean that we should initiate an ad hoc gathering for the vague purpose of pressuring the government to do…WHAT exactly? Penoy has already announced HIS solution to the issues that were going to be raised ON 26th August. THREE DAYS AHEAD of the rally. As you pointed out, the rally is to “petition the government for redress of grievances.” And as of this date, there still is no clear idea, aside from Penoy’s statement, as to how, according to the mysterious rally organisers, the people’s grievances will be remedied.

        2. That won’t fly with me. You see, this very article you’re commenting on already stated ideas, in the form of questions, for the organizers to have a more concrete vision of what it is exactly that they want to accomplish with their street rally.

          Yet as expected, instead of answering our questions, the only thing you’ve been doing here is to evade them. That’s not exactly a way to go around pitching a value proposition for an activity whose aim is “to show the public disgust at the pork barrel”, but has not articulated much else.

          Nobody said that demonstrations are only meant for ousting governments. And why bring up the Bill of Rights when nothing I said in my article above explicitly mentions anything against it?

          You want ideas? This one is so simple, it’ll fly over Filipinos’ heads:

          Stop voting incompetent and unscrupulous people you didn’t evaluate well enough into office.

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