Express Week

Filipino Youth of New Jersey Joins International Day of Outrage vs Pork Barrel

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New York City, NY-- Anakbayan New Jersey (AB-NJ) united with several other Filipino community organizations in the region for a historic 100-people strong protest action in front of the Philippine Consulate in NYC, demanding nothing less than the abolition of the pork barrel system in all branches of government.

 

In solidarity with the August 26 Million People March in Luneta, overseas Filipinos took to the streets and social media to express outrage and disappointment over the Aquino regime’s ineptitude at genuinely addressing the economic and social problems of the Filipino people.

In NYC, community members showed up wearing pig masks and brought signs that said, “Abolish Presidential Pork Barrel”, “Re-Channel Funds to Social Services” and “Investigate and Prosecute All Involved in Corruption”. There were also chanting of a revised popular protest slogan that goes, “Makibaka! Huwag mang-baboy!” in reference to the pork barrel fund and corruption. Speakers also from various organizations lashed out against the gross governmental misuse of public funds.

A member of Anakbayan NJ, tells his experience, “The protest meant a great deal to me because it's great to see Fil-Ams in my area still be so connected to the troubles of our homeland.  [We sent the message] that we are angry that supposed public servants are breaking their promises and stealing the money of the Filipino public,” said Jan Aguilos.

Clearly, despite Aquino’s supposed campaign to eliminate corruption, trillions of pesos in pork barrel funds are being laundered and pocketed by politicians every year through sham non-governmental organizations (NGOs) and private investments; while the Filipino masses suffer under state budget constraints in education, health care, Overseas Filipino Worker (OFW) protection, emergency relief and rehabilitation and other social services.

Scrap the Pork, Serve OFWs

The pork barrel scandal, where the exposé on Janet Lim- Napoles is but the tip of the iceberg, affects overseas Filipino workers as it affects their families back home. Corruption on the part of politicians is negatively connected to declining economic conditions in the Philippines, which push Filipinos to migrate abroad.

Nina Macapinlac, an AB-NJ member who migrated to the US 15 years ago, said, “This [government corruption] is outrageous because the pork barrel scandal illuminates the expansive pork barrel state of the Philippines, where power is so regularly used to exploit the public sphere. My family in the US works hard to send back money so this is just as much our concern as it is in the Philippines.”

Pork barrel funds include remittances sent home by Filipino migrants as well as millions more from tax impositions and state exactions through the Philippine Overseas Employment Agency, Overseas Workers Welfare Administration, and the Department of Foreign Affairs. These remittances reached a record high of $21.4 billion worth of personal cash and non-cash items and goods in 2012, according to Bangko Sentral ng Pilipinas.

Despite OFWs’ undeniable contributions, protesters cited several examples of the Aquino government’s failure to provide assistance to thousands of OFWs. President Aquino’s P1-trillion pork barrel fund could well be spent on the repatriation costs of over 5,000 distressed and stranded Filipinos in Egypt and Saudi Arabia, as well as legal assistance funds for victims of labor trafficking in the United States.

 

Unity is People Power

The current surge of grassroots activism in the Filipino community around the world has been likened to the rumbles of the First Quarter Storm of the ‘70s. Participants of the protest action vowed to remain united and continue fighting until the pork barrel is abolished.

Today, I saw the potential of our People here in the States to truly come together and stand up for something,” shared Daniel Santiago, an AB-NJ member, reacting to his experience witnessing the great turnout of Filipinos in the NY/NJ area. “There were people from varying spectrums of beliefs and focused on different aspects of what is going on with our People, but we managed to be united on certain things. It was a beautiful thing to be able to see [these organizations] come together as well as see so many Filipinos come out against the pork barrel to be in solidarity with those back home fighting to see it gone,” Santiago concluded.

The Filipino Express

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