Anti-pork barrel advocates are set to gather at the Luneta Park on August 26, National Heroes' Day, and are using social media to rally participants to their cause.
It started out as a simple idea. Friends Arnold Pedrigal, Peachy Bretana, and Bernardo Bernardo created a Facebook event page to gather like-minded people who want the Priority Development Assistance Fund (PDAF) or pork barrel scrapped.
The gathering, scheduled on August 26, aims to gather one million people to assemble at the Luneta Park for a "massive pocket picnic."
The event invitations calls on "ordinary, tax-paying people" to show "government (that) they answer to us. Tayo ang boss dito!" (We are the boss!)
The event also states that there will be no banners, no political colors, and no speeches.
The event invite was created on Saturday afternoon, August 17. As of this posting, more than 4,500 Facebook users have signified their willingness to join the event.
Pedrigal said the event was inspired by artist Ito Rapadas' Facebook post that urged Filipinos to march against the pork barrel.
According to Pedrigal, Rapadas posted the following statement:
"What we need is a MILLION PEOPLE MARCH by struggling Filipino taxpayers- a day of protest by the silent majority that would demand all politicians and govt. officials (whatever the political stripes, color they may carry) to stop pocketing our taxes borne out from our hard work by means of these pork barrel scams and other creative criminal acts."
"Peachy shared it in her wall in which she suggested to have a Martsa sa Luneta on Aug 26 to coincide with the Araw ng mga Bayani. Peachy's post was then shared by Bernardo Bernardo which I also received. I then suggested creating an event in FB to invite more people," said Pedrigal.
"After less than 12 hours, we saw the sudden surge of people who would like to join," Pedrigal told Rappler.
Rapadas was surprised at the speed of the reaction online. He told Rappler in an email, "I've been reading the anger and outrage on my social media feeds for several days now. And I share the same frustration that netizens are venting."
"The 'one million' line (looking back now) caught the attention of some of my fb friends (only a few read it actually) because it probably gave them a quick visual image in their minds that maybe all the online emotions can be translated to action," Rapadas added.
Though the brainchild of Pedrigal and several others, he is the first to admit that the protest event has no formal organizers, possibly taking inspiration from the Occupy Wall Street Movement in the USA, which was loosely organized.
"There is really no formal organizing group. This is a non-partisan event, where we would like the Filipinos to vent out and voice their feelings and sentiments towards the Pork Barrel system."
Pedrigal is based in San Francisco, USA, where he is the head of Prowave Media and produces "Power ng Pinoy" a US-based show that features "inspiring stories of Filipino shakers and movers."
Bernardo Bernardo is a theater actor based in Los Angeles. Bretana is based in Maila.
The lack of formal leaders has lead some to question whether the event will succeed in rallying a million people as intended. It has also lead to some practical concerns, such as who will secure the necessary permit to assemble in front of the Quirino Grandstand.
This doesn't seem to bother Pedrigal or the others who have adapted the event as their own.
Bernardo posted on the event page, "Sabi nga--Build it and they will come. Just Believe. Makikita mo, magsusulpotan yung mga gusto talagang tumulong. Sooner than you think! (You'll see, those who really want to help will appear.)
"The rally is not just for the Filipinos in Metro Manila," said Pedrigal. "It is gaining grounds in other parts of the Philippines such as Iloilo and Zamboanga and (even) outside the Philippines."
Rapadas is more cautious. "I don't know if a million can be generated. I personally feel it's not important now if that figure is reachable. What's important is that it remain peaceful and orderly."
How to participate?
The event is set to begin at 9AM. Those attending are asked to meet at the KM 0 marker adjacent to the Rizal Monument and are encouraged to wear white.
On social media, supporters are also encouraged to tweet to @ProtestaNgBayan and post a status message on Facebook that includes the statement:
"I am *name* Pinoy ako. I pay my taxes, on-time and full. You, my government, owe me a full explanation."
The hashtags #OnePinoy #MillionPeopleMarch and #ProtestaNgBayan are also being used.
Online campaigns sprout
Though the One Million People March against Pork Barrel may be the first protest rally organized entirely through social media, online campaigns are nothing new in the Philippines.
People Power 2 and 3 were largely fueled by people sending text messages within their social networks, calling on others to rally.
Most recently, a group of "former senior government officials" started an online petition through the website Change.org to call on Ombudsman Conchita Carpio-Morales to "conduct an impartial investigation of the grave misuse of the PDAF."
"No benefit can possible justify the crimes it has spawned and the systematic corruption of public institutions and officials it has promoted," the statement read.
The online campaign also asked President Benigno S. Aquino III "to constitute a special committee composed of representatives of Department of Budget and Management, Department of Justice, and the private sector to review the PDAF process and to recommend safeguards to ensure that the PDAF is not further abused."
The call to junk the pork barrel system has gained a tidal wave of support in recent weeks after news reports revealed the alleged misuse of funds involving members of Congress and fake NGOs.
The idea that several elected officials and their cronies have abused the PDAF to enrich themselves has generated intense public anger in a country where the divide between the rich and the poor grows further everyday. -Rappler.com