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Church leaders call for end to 'pork barrel' fund

Another major protest planned for Manila this Friday

<p>Protesters on the 'million people' march in August (photo by Vincent Go)</p>

Protesters on the 'million people' march in August (photo by Vincent Go)

  • Joe Torres, Manila
  • Philippines
  • October 3, 2013
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Church leaders have appealed to Philippine President Benigno Aquino to listen to growing opposition and abolish a government spending allocation scheme which many say is riddled with corruption.  

The call comes ahead of another major protest against the fund to be held in Manila’s financial district on Friday.

The protest, which aims to repeat a “million people” march staged in August, seeks to pressure the government into ending the Priority Development Assistance Fund (PDAF) or 'pork barrel' fund handed out to legislators.

Some 200 million pesos (US$4.5 million) is allocated to each of the country’s 24 senators and 70 million pesos to 294 lower house lawmakers, for supposed development projects in their constituencies.

The results of a state audit released earlier in August caused a national outcry when it revealed that 6 billion pesos in pork barrel money was allegedly misused between 2007 and 2009. It identified at least 12 senators and 180 congressmen and congresswomen whose fund allocations were channelled to dubious NGOs.
 
Of these, 2.1 billion pesos allegedly went to 10 dummy NGOs associated with Janette Napoles, a prominent businesswoman.

"Many have affirmed that the pork barrel has been a source of corruption," Archbishop Jose Palma, president of the bishops' conference, said Thursday. 

"The sentiment of the majority" is to scrap a fund that should have been an opportunity for goodness but was used for evil, he said.

Cardinal Luis Antonio Tagle, Manila's archbishop, meanwhile urged political leaders to mend their ways, adding that "there is corruption everywhere".

"Instead of giving what is due to others and to the country, resources are being denied them. We do not only lack love for others, but we also lack a sense of justice," Tagle said in a statement on Thursday.

He also called on government leaders involved in an "intricate web" of corruption to visit the poor and slum areas to realize how the pork barrel funds should be spent correctly.

Manila Auxiliary Bishop Broderick Pabillo appealed to Aquino’s "sense of delicadeza [decency]" amid growing anger at what he described as "systematic corruption via the pork barrel" scheme.

Organizers of Friday’s social media-driven march said their message "stays the same," which is to scrap the fund.

"But now, we are inviting our businessmen and corporate leaders to join the people in the call to abolish the pork barrel."

An online post on Facebook drew 100,000 people to a similar march in Manila on August 26. 

"The reason why we are stepping this up is to bring united mass pressure, a mass movement that can change this broken system," said Rasti Delizo from Sanlakas, a party-list organization comprising various marginalized groups.

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