The cry from Luneta: What next, Mr. President?

Pork barrel protest in Luneta. Photo by GMA News

Pork barrel protest in Luneta. Photo by GMA News

By Ludy A. Ongkeko

A new definition of ‘patriotism’ in our homeland has emerged. There was no single, solitary leadership involved. It came voluntarily. It was spontaneity underscored. It was limitless encouragement. It brought hope.

That August ‘People Protest’ might not have reached the ‘million’ mark as proclaimed. But the numbers spoke for the people’s wishes. That demonstration was fueled by the people, for the people and of the people.

It was a coincidence that the schedule, though hastily planned, went through on a day like National Heroes Day; no hero took the credit. All those who went to the Luneta where our own national hero, Dr. Jose P. Rizal, gave up his life on December 30, 1898, were our modern-day heroes.

The messages carried what the people were incensed about. The venue was not just in Manila. It spread to all the metropolitan areas including the Visayas and Mindanao.

Overseas, who wouldn’t be inspired by the sign: “How Dare You Steal My Future?” The Overseas Filipino Worker is not just toiling for himself/herself. Funds sent to the homeland are hard-earned as reported: billions in remittances and millions more in tax returns.

Yet, those earnings, known to be plundered by corrupt officials, have not been put to good use by the population that direly needs funds to improve their lives.

Cardinal Luis Antonio Tagle was seen to be in tears as he learned of herculean rip-offs by the enormity of the situation which has denied the impoverished their due. What should come as projects through the pork barrel assistance given to the legislators went adrift. As he joined the gathering crowd, Cardinal Tagle extolled the greatness of the Filipino.

That pork barrel system has been denounced no end and should be terminated. Consequently, appeals from all quarters of the population arrived, all directed to the executive department.

Protesters wear pig masks to send a dramatic message.

Protesters wear pig masks to send a dramatic message.

No longer does it matter that the system would convert to another name. It is what it has represented: a manner by which corruption passed through an era that the Filipino people don’t deserve at all. What took place by way of the scams, what was diverted to concoctions of non-government organizations has been so shameful. Whether it came under the Priority Development Assistance Fund, and there will be a name change is not what should be anticipated. It is, and will still remind the Filipino people of compulsive corruption.

All taxpayers wish to see every centavo of their taxes ‘wisely spent,’ on every project. Who wasn’t held up mercilessly by those pork barrel scandals that inflated the world-size bags of alleged members of that network of corruption?

As a consequence, every year, the ‘pork’ runs to billions of pesos: the people’s money.

And what has been the outrage of outrages was the exposure of the P10 billion pork barrel scam that was ‘exported’ abroad through extravagant living for the obsessed, for the family members who sought and practiced the life of celebrities of known opulence

A newsman sent his first-person account to me. It was thrilling to see the gathering multiplying as the moments wore on. The middle-class responded with the willingness that came with their sacrifice as ‘bad weather’ started to arrive on the scene.

“What next, Mr. President?” was the challenge of the hundreds of thousands of people who held gatherings in such areas as Cebu, Naga, Davao, Puerto Princesa, Baguio, Bacolod, Isabela, Dagupan.

Despite their pains and aches, what could be clearly seen: the bikers, the disabled, bikers, cyclists, the old and the young, anyone who could make the trek, they all had one common denominator: to express themselves as one voice, to denounce the pork barrel system.

President Aquino has a humongous task ahead in terms of ‘shaping up’ the gigantic disturbance caused by the corruption-laden pork barrel. As Chief Executive, Aquino must bring the perpetrators to justice. At press time, reports went viral that one of the principals in the outrageous scheme, Janet Lim Napoles has surrendered after all-out bulletins went after the identified agents of corruption.

What did all the nationwide rallies and those that were held abroad represent? There can be but one resounding answer: A call to change what has been going on: remove the pork barrel. It has caused enough corruption. The Filipino people deserve better, whether in their country of origin or where they have chosen spots to call ‘home.’

Legislators wouldn’t be in their places of power were it not for the people’s voting them in against the backdrop of what voters believed would best represent them. As members of the House of Representatives and the Senate, they were elected to make laws meant for the common good, not gold for themselves.

Being voted into office as lawmakers carried with it the privilege of check and balance under the principle of power; not to accept checks which were meant to fatten their pockets and to enhance their bank account balance without end.

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