The endorsement of the People’s Initiative bill was on top of the more than 10,000 signatures that the organizers hoped to get at the launch of the signature campaign against the ‘pork barrel’ system that has bred corruption in government.
Malacañang, speaking through deputy presidential spokesperson Abigail Valte said it is not against the signature campaign against the ‘pork barrel’ system.
Those present at the People’s congress were leaders of the Catholic Bishops’ Conference of the Philippines (CBCP), Philippine Council of Evangelical Churches, National Council of Churches in the Philippines, Integrated Bar of the Philippines (IBP), Bayan Muna, and other religious and civic groups.
IBP National President Vicente Joyas said he will personally endorse the people’s initiative bill in congress.
At the Plaza Independencia, 4,000 showed up and signed to be counted. Louise Gerodias, 16, a student of Cebu International school, said she signed up as her way of saying that the “youth of today is not apathetic to what is happening in government.”
Sister Evangeline Madayag of the Order of Saint Benedict who has been attending similar rallies since 1996 said taking part in the People’s Initiative is “listening to the voice of God talking to us through our conscience.”
“As a religious taking part in this significant movement, this will send out a message to the government that the church is alive in fighting against any form of corruption; that we cannot just close our eyes to the evil doings of corrupt officials. This pork barrel system is clearly not for the good of the poor,” Madayag told the Manila Bulletin yesterday.
Ed Martinez, 65, a member of the Cebu Coalition Against the Pork Barrel (CCAPB), said he was moved to tears seeing so many young people becoming more aware to fight what is wrong in government. “Now the clamor for fight against corruption is more evident,” Martinez said.
Martinez, a veteran of mass actions since the Martial Law days said the People’s Initiative yesterday was even more meaningful because it was non-partisan.
Inday Varona, the spokesperson of the People’s Initiative Against Pork Barrel, said the turn out of the People’s Congress was overwhelming. They were only expecting about 500 participants but the venue – the Mariners’ court was jampacked when more than 1,000 showed up.
Cebu Archbishop Jose Palma said participating in the call to abolish the pork barrel system is an important work of the church and because there is something wrong in the current system of government, the church has to join in sending a message to the country’s leaders.
Palma was grateful to the Cebuanos who attended the People’s Congress and those who joined the march against the pork barrel.
“To me I’m very hopeful (that the pork barrel will be abolished), but even the fact that there is the clamor, this in itself is already growth in the people and of course its ultimate fruit would be that the peoples initiative will work, even if we can only hope for the best,” Palma added as he urged President Aquino to listen to the voice of the people.
“Today is a good start to bring awareness to the people, especially those who were not able to attend our gathering that we will not remain silent until we see that the pork barrel is abolished,” Palma assured.
Manila Archbishop Luis Antonio Cardinal Tagle, in his written message to the participants of the People’s Congress, thanked the attendees for making democracy alive and active.
“Thank you for advancing decency in public life. Thank you for giving voice to countless victims of corruption especially the poor and marginalized,” Tagle wrote.
Bacolod City Archbishop Vicente Navarra, who also sent his message, said the fight for the abolition of the pork barrel is an issue for spiritual and moral reform – a battle against moral corruption caused by greed and dishonesty.
“We, who stand for the abolition of such moral evil should root our struggle in our faith in God as we pray for the conversion of people who espouse this moral malady. But let us not forget to start the reform from our own selves,” Navarra said.
Varona stressed that the signature campaign against ‘pork’ will continue in school campuses, barangays, and other places until they meet the requirements.
Under the people’s initiative law, signatures of at least 10 percent of the total voting population, of which every congressional district must be represented by at least 3 percent of its voters are needed for an initiative to succeed.
The Cebu initiative will be followed by another signature drive against the ‘pork barrel’ system tomorrow at the Rizal park in Manila to mark the first anniversary of the Million People March.
Malacañang said it has no plans to counter the anti-‘pork’ and anti-Cha-cha protest at Rizal Park tomorrow and hopes the gathering will be orderly. Government employees are free to join the rally since it’s a holiday, the Palace added.