Philippine churches form alliance against 'pork barrel' corruption
New group vows to work for scheme's abolition
Bishop Broderick Pabillo speaks at the mass protest against the pork barrel system on Friday October 4. (Photo by Vincent Go)
Philippine bishops, priests, nuns and lay leaders of various denominations have stepped up their opposition to the 'pork barrel' scheme, which they say is riddled with corruption.
On Saturday they formed an alliance vowing to pressurize the government into abolishing the fund.
The Church People’s Alliance Against Pork Barrel called on the faithful "to unite against greed, expose corruption, demand justice and restitution, and inspire one another for moral reconstruction and social transformation towards liberation for all."
In recent weeks, various groups have been calling for an end to the allocation of some 200 million pesos (US$4.5 million) to each of the country’s 24 senators and 70 million pesos to 294 Lower House lawmakers, for development projects in their constituencies.
The results of a state audit released in August sparked a national outcry when it revealed that 6 billion pesos in "pork barrel" money was allegedly misused between 2007 and 2009.
The audit identified at least 12 senators and 180 congressmen and congresswomen whose fund allocations were channeled to dubious NGOs.
"Unabated stealing by the rulers from the people’s coffers... has exposed the rottenness of the current governmental system," Father Ben Alforque of the Missionaries of the Sacred Heart congregation said at the launch of the alliance on Saturday.
Good Shepherd Sister Mauren Catabian, one of the conveners of the new group, said government officials "have greedily satisfied their own interests" and have forgotten the interests of the poor.
The new group urged the government to re-channel the funds directly into services such as health and education, and make those found guilty of graft accountable.
On Friday, Bishop Broderick Pabillo, head of the social action secretariat of the bishops' conference, addressed crowds protesting against the pork barrel fund. He accused the government of using the fund to bribe lawmakers.
Thousands of Filipinos had trooped to the Manila’s financial district in Makati City on Friday for a "million people" march to call for the immediate abolition of the pork barrel fund.
Meanwhile, a bishops' conference official has called on President Benigno Aquino to quit, saying he is not fit to lead the nation.
Aquino on Sunday told the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation Summit in Indonesia that he is not seeking re-election.
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