MALAYBALAY CITY (MindaNews / 27 August) – In the runup to the August 26 nationwide anti-pork barrel protest dubbed Million People March, Gov. Jose Ma. R. Zubiri Jr. issued a memorandum encouraging officials and employees of the various local government units to join and support the nationwide protests.
But when President Benigno Simeon 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 the pork barrel, the supposed venues for the event in the province, the Freedom Park and the Capitol Grounds, were empty except for athletes practicing for sports fests.
Malaybalay Bishop Jose Cabantan told MindaNews 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.
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. 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 Aug. 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 organized 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.”
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.”
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.
Others said the PDAF should not be scrapped.
Bae Inatlawan Adelina Tarino, head claimant of the Bukidnon Daraghuyan tribe in Dalwangan in Malaybalay, 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 that those who abused the PDAF should be made accountable for their actions.