Teens against pork
Students have taken part in the protests, including the one on Sept. 13 that involved three schools on Katipunan Avenue in Quezon City.
Other students have sent letters to newspapers to denounce the corruption and greed of lawmakers. We are featuring here seven letters from fourth year high school students at Paref Woodrose School in Ayala Alabang, Muntinlupa City, to get a sense of how the youth, at least from this school for girls, feel about the scam.)
‘Let justice prevail’
As a 16-YEAR-OLD high school senior, I am aghast at some of our politicians who have been “stealing” money from the state coffers and, therefore, the Filipino people who pay their taxes.
A big number of the Philippine population is deemed poor and these people work so hard every day. How are these politicians able to steal money from the people who struggle every day just to make ends meet?
The money the poor make is so little and part of which still has to go to taxes. Filipinos were told their taxes were going to be used to make the Philippines a better country. However, the money goes, instead, to the pockets of politicians who have much more than enough money to meet their daily needs and is being spent for less important things.
The whole pork barrel idea should be abolished. There are plans to put up something similar to it and this shouldn’t push through as well. The money does not have to be given to local government units. The government should give it directly to the intended beneficiaries so it can keep track of where the funds go.
I was one of those who attended the Million People March on Aug. 26 and I plan on joining more protests.
I pray that with all the evidence being presented, justice will prevail against Janet Lim-Napoles and the involved politicians. More so, I pray that the Filipino people will be more discriminating in choosing the persons who will govern our country. This is something I definitely plan on doing when I finally come of age to vote.
— Catherine Q. Espino
‘We suffer so much because of you’
To our politicians,
For the past four years, we have visited Itaas Elementary School, a public school in Muntinlupa City, for outreach. It frustrates us to see the children having so little even of the basic necessities every person has the right to have. Some do not even have a decent chair to sit on, a pencil to write with, or a notebook to write on.
It makes us wonder where all the money is going because we know that our parents pay taxes year in and year out. Seeing the condition of the children of Itaas Elementary School disheartens us every time considering that education is the key to a better future for themselves as well as their families.
With quality education, these children can be taught the know-how to help them obtain lucrative jobs in the future. What you are really doing—by channeling public funds into your own pockets—is pushing them deeper into the poverty they wish to free themselves from.
Since these children have no voice, we wish to be their voice. And we wish to say that the lives of the students of Itaas as well as those of other poor children of our country are unfortunate because you robbed them of the funds that could have been used for better education.
Thus, in behalf of every Filipino child whose voice is silenced by poverty, we wish to say, “We suffer so much because of you.”
— Mackey Cureg, Monica Gamboa, Isabel Ipapo, Angelica Martinez and Valerie Wei
‘Lawmaker living lavish lifestyle’
After the damage caused by Tropical Storm “Maring” and habagat, we were immediately faced with the pork barrel scam. Many less fortunate Filipinos are barely surviving but there are those who make it appear that they feel their pain. A number of those who seem to empathize with the poor are living in their multimillion-peso homes and wallowing in stolen money.
One of them is a government official with a lavish lifestyle. I recently saw in the news this senator, who posted a photo of his “house” submerged in floodwaters. It’s sickening that this man was trying to empathize with the people because I know that was not the truth.
He has an enormous house in the village I stay in. His home is complete with an array of luxury vehicles. His wife, who is also a government official, walks around the local mall with two bodyguards and an assistant who carries a handbag for her.
Seriously? You would think that this was over the top, but there is more. I was told that this senator is having another house constructed in front of his existing one. The other house, of course, is nothing short of grand. Top-of-the-line materials were used for the construction.
What makes me even more sick in the stomach is the fact that this house is being erected on a fairway lot, one of the most costly properties in the village.
One house we can probably tolerate to a certain point. But two mansions across from each other? How can one accept this? It makes many of the residents ponder on where our taxes go.
You cannot blame Filipinos for being enraged about the pork barrel. They work so hard to pay their taxes, but it turns out that they are actually funding the personal purchases of government officials.
I worry about the disparity between the richest of the rich, like certain government officials, and the poorest of the poor, like 30 percent of the population.
What has the Philippines gotten into? Will we continue to allow corrupt people to take advantage of us? I know that a true Filipino is a fighter. I dare you, all my fellow Filipinos, to take a stand against this great injustice. It is now time for us to step into the ring and knock the enemy down.
—Mikaela R. Romulo
‘We are outraged’
To our politicians,
We are outraged by the pork barrel scam. We are still teenagers but we are not apathetic or blind. We read and watch the news and we have regular, healthy discussions with our teachers, parents and relatives.
We know there is corruption in the country. We have believed this for some time… and now the picture is “painted perfectly” by the P10-billion pork barrel scam.
We know that you know what’s going on. You either condone the injustices with your silence… or you are a co-conspirator. Either way, you are still part of the tarnished and corrupt system. Sadly, so little of you are innocent.
We were taught that in other countries, merely a whiff of scandal would trigger resignations. If you are being implicated, why not salvage what’s left of your dignity and simply resign? After all you have to be accountable for these public funds. The fake NGOs should not have escaped your attention.
More importantly, please remove the pork barrel allocation. It has given you too much power. It has reinforced a culture of corruption. Most of you are wealthy and you cannot carry this wealth to your grave. If you pass it on to your children, you are cursing their lives.
Please give your children a chance to lead clean, decent, upright and virtuous lives. Money and power are not the only key to happiness.
— Sandy Carreon, Dela Dimagiba, Lean Miller and Johnna Balane
‘Unhealthy for country’s health’
“I asked for only P3,000 so I could start selling taho (soy bean curd). But they ignored me. While this happened, P20 billion went into the pockets of senators and congressmen,” Dante Macarubo, a taho vendor, said in Filipino.
He said he was made to pay taxes but he was not getting any help [from government.]
This poor taho vendor is not alone. In fact, both rich and poor Filipino taxpayers are affected by the pork barrel scam. Most Filipinos are bereft of quality education, sufficient healthcare services, financial assistance, better roads and other infrastructure, and innovative technology. We are deprived of progress.
At the same time, these government officials live lavish lifestyles, drowning in seas of Gucci, Prada and money. Little did we know that these luxuries were bought using the money from our own pockets.
Why does the Filipino have to struggle tirelessly against poverty and corruption? The Filipino could be an honest worker. Day in and day out, he works hard to support his family and willingly (or unwillingly) gives up part of his income to the government through taxes.
Perhaps, he believes the government would use the money to build more classrooms, improve roads, provide programs to help the poor, among others things. Besides indirectly being of service to his countrymen, he could probably also gain something from government projects.
However, his money does not benefit his countrymen but the very people whom he elected and trusted to lead the Philippines toward progress.
His leaders grab the money like it’s theirs and attend to satisfying their craving for more luxuries, while neglecting the cries of the poor like Macarubo.
Why is it so difficult for the senators and congressmen to give, but it is so easy for them to take? Are they not ashamed of stealing from people who have next to nothing?
We are one with the rest of the nation in protesting the pork barrel scam. We were appalled to find out that 30 percent of our parents’ earnings were used to pay for someone’s sports car or new house.
If we continue to let pork stay in our diet, what will become of us, the Filipino youth? The officials will consume our cash to satisfy their personal wants. In fact, they will be disgustingly corpulent that our country’s economic health will deteriorate.
We refuse to be subjected to this kind of abuse for our future. This is not just a matter of money. It is a question of going against what is immoral and unjust, living the Filipino spirit and setting the ideals for leaders and citizens of the Philippines of tomorrow. We, the future leaders, will not lose hope.
—Nicola Arcenas, Monina Elazegui, Franky Guerrero, Nica Jaucian and Kamille Tapia
Where have the billions gone?
The Priority Development Assistance Fund is a discretionary fund taken from the national budget, which is portioned out to members of Congress.
The senators, and district and partylist representatives who are entitled to this pork barrel are expected to allocate these funds for infrastructure or non-infrastructure projects that contribute to the development and enhancement of education, healthcare services, public works, irrigation, housing, financial aid, peace and order, environmental health and preservation of arts and culture in the Philippines.
If a congressman is entitled to P70 million each year, while a senator receives P200 million, the question arises: Where exactly has the money been going?
Seeing the underdeveloped state of the country, it is no wonder that many were enraged by the pork barrel scam. Billions of pesos goes into the pockets of senators and congressmen, while Filipinos are being deprived of their rights to higher quality service from government.
The country is facing problems such as the lack of quality education, insufficient healthcare, a huge housing backlog and unemployment. Despite this, people continue to wonder why poverty rates are still high.
On this note, we’d like to address our government officials: Look around you and notice all the other problems that our country faces. If the pork barrel funds were allocated accordingly, many of these issues may have been alleviated, if not resolved by now.
The welfare of our country is constantly being neglected due to corruption and greed.
We must continue to fight for our rights: the right to be heard and the right to live in a society where development is tangible. Take your stand for genuine change. Make your voice be heard and take action because change begins with you.
— Mia Claudio, Ysabel del Gallego, Sam Laureola, Angela Molina and Bea Vale
‘There’s limit to abuse people can take’
July12 [the start of the Inquirer series on the pork barrel scam] could yet go down in history as another milestone that could bring about a dramatic and extensive change in Philippine governance.
It can potentially contribute to achieving greater transparency in budget spending (both executive and legislative), and ensuring that government funds do not land in the pockets of a privileged few. The exposé can also serve as a clear and strong message to elected and appointed officials that they are accountable and that there is a limit to what wrong and abuse the people can take.
Much has been said, written and broadcast about the PDAF scam and the war by the citizenry on those who misused the pork barrel.
To us, this may probably be the most important contribution this exposé has given us.
It has opened our eyes to our role as future leaders of this country. When trust is given, much is expected from someone who has been given that trust. It rests solely on his or her shoulders how to earn that trust.
We need to realize that when we take what is not ours, it offends not only one’s sense of self-respect and dignity but also the One who gave us His commandments to do otherwise. And we need to listen intently with a good heart and a critical mind.
Temptations will exist all the time, especially when controls are not in place as in the case of the PDAF, which to our mind should be abolished.
To all those who are able to read this, it is our sincere hope that this call is heeded.
—Iya Oracion, Sabine Puno, Janelle Tejada, Ashley de Silva and Angela Titular
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