Aside from pork barrel, protesters hit 4Ps, others in Bukidnon rally

VALENCIA CITY (MindaNews / 22 Sept) — The Aquino administration’s conditional cash transfer program, 4Ps or Pantawid Pamilyang Plipino Program was among the issues that were criticized during the anti-pork barrel rally Saturday of the Bagong Alyansang Makabayan (Bayan).

Jose Benemerito, chair of the Kahugpungan sa mga Mag-uuma sa (Kasama) Bukidnon, a group allied with the Bagong Alyansang Makabayan (Bayan), said the 4Ps program is a mockery and has not alleviated the plight of the poor.

The inter-faith rally was organized by Bayan in coordination with church groups and other sectors  to commemorate the 41st anniversary of the declaration of Martial Law.

The protest, a follow up to a September 13 anti-pork rally in Malaybalay City was attended by some 300 representatives from different churches, farmers organizations, including members of the League of Filipino Students (LFS) from Central Mindanao University and Bukidnon State University.

The protest was held at the newly constructed but not yet operational Valencia City Central Market.

Benemerito said there is no way the program can alleviate the poverty of the country’s poorest of the poor, with estimated aid of P10 a day or P300 per family per month.

The program provides cash grants to beneficiaries provided that they comply with the set of conditions required by the program. According to its website, 4Ps helps to fulfill the country’s commitment to meet the Millennium Development Goals, namely eradicate extreme poverty and hunger, achieve universal primary education, promote gender equality, reduce child mortality, and improve maternal health.

He said the 4Ps budget of P46 billion budget, proposed to be increased to P62 billion, will be put to waste if not spent directly on social services. The group called for the abolition of pork barrel and sought to re-channel the funds to social services like health and education.

Benemerito said the program is not the answer to the poor’s problems.

He said genuine land reform is needed but the same, he added, is not achievable in the Aquino administration.

Benemerito said the Comprehensive Agrarian Reform Program initiated during the time of President Benigno Aquino III’s mother, President Corazon Aquino has allegedly failed to address the people’s needs in land reform.

He said the President’s family who is in control of Hacienda Luisita continues to show that the people cannot expect “genuine” land reform.

He also said that the government’s priority are products that are in demand abroad like pineapples, banana, and jatropha but it has neglected its food security concerns for rice and corn.  He added that what’s making it worse is the government’s alleged tendency to import rice instead of working on sufficiency.

A representative from Kabataan Partylist said that it is apparent from the P10 billion pork barrel that the national government has budget for corruption but not for education.

The representative cited that although there is an increase in the budget, P1.9 billion for state universities and colleges is not enough. They said 79 of the 110 SUCs suffered budget cuts.

Representatives from different religious groups also hit the pork barrel system in the protest, each taking turns in reading statements or pastoral letters from church leaders.

The bishops of the United Church of Christ in the Philippines, in a pastoral letter dated Sept. 12 and read by a lady pastor, said the pork barrel is an “abuse of the poor and betrayal to the nation.” They have called for thorough investigation, prosecution and end of “climate of impunity in the country.”

Fr. Jojo Brigoli, parish priest of San Agustin Parish in Valencia City, read the pastoral letter prepared by the Catholic Bishops Conference of the Philippines earlier this month. The bishops referred to corruption in government as “a growing social cancer.”  The bishops also condemned as immoral and an “act of terrorism” against the poor the legislators’ pork barrel system and the “politics of patronage” behind it.

Magdalena Ayobong, 60, resident of Poblacion Valencia City, attended the rally on invitation of a friend, because she wanted to know the real score about the pork barrel system.

“If what I have heard is true, then the Aquino administration is fooling all of us. He gave us false hope with his supposed anti-corruption campaign,” said the housewife and mother of eight.

She added that poor people like her would rather do chores at home but when their rights are trampled upon, she would not mind going to a rally.

“It’s got to stop. The government should help us instead of abusing us,” she added. (Walter I. Balane/MindaNews)