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There’s the Rub

Day of the pig

On the face of it, the antipork marchers had a couple of advantages.

One was that they explained their beef, so to speak, better. Or far more intelligibly. “Pork barrel is a lump-sum public fund with sole discretion given to the President, legislator or group of legislators, or any public officer on how it will be spent. The exercise of discretion by public officers relates to the allocation, release or use of these public funds, the identification or selection of projects, implementers or beneficiaries, or any or a combination of or all of these.”

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Compare that to Butch Abad’s statement: “The Supreme Court defines pork barrel as lump sums in the budget that require post-enactment intervention of legislators during budget execution, except in the exercise of their oversight function. Do they accept that definition? If not, how do they define pork barrel?”

Government’s disconnect is patent, which gives you an idea of why it has been losing the communication war on DAP/pork these past months. Unless you’re an accountant or a lawyer, you won’t understand what the hell the Budget Secretary is talking about. The antipork marchers have figures as well to support their claim that pork, as they define it, continues to this day. Under the Grassroots Participatory Budgeting Process, another concoction of Abad’s, they say, the Department of Interior and Local Government has gotten a lump sum of P1.37 billion, the Department of Agriculture P1.7 billion, and the Local Government Support Fund P2.78 billion.

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You start resorting to legalese or “technicalese,” and you will be perceived as trying to hide something. That was what Renato Corona resorted to when he was being tried for corruption among other things, and he was a juridical entity. And that was what doomed him. Serafin Cuevas’ “Objection, your ‘heuneur,’” made for an interesting meme, but not much else.

Two is that the antipork marchers seem to have made a proprietary claim on National Heroes Day as their day for seeking redress for grievances. Not a bad symbolism, particularly with its usual message of “Everyone can be a hero,” or “Every Filipino is a hero.” It’s an invitation for people to go out of themselves, to be larger than themselves.

Last Monday’s rally, however, also suffered from a couple of disadvantages.

One was that it wasn’t quite the march it was last year. The power of last year’s march was that it was spontaneous, amorphous, anonymous. It arose from the bowels of the earth, or quite literally from several (young) people in the social media expressing their disgust over pork while poverty raged across the land and calling on the populace to do something about it. Someone suggested a Million People March at the Luneta and the populace responded.

The authorities would later estimate the crowd to be only 75,000 to 100,000, a far cry from the million optimistically projected for it. But I don’t know that you can pin it to that number; the crowd, perfectly in keeping with the spontaneous, amorphous, anonymous nature of the exercise, kept flowing in and out of the square throughout the day. It wasn’t confined to it for any long period at a given time. But whether 100,000 or a million, it was representative of a cross-section of the population, from poor to middle-class to even rich.

Last Monday’s rally had nothing of that. It wasn’t spontaneous, amorphous, anonymous; it was organized, definite and strident. Where last year’s rally drew in a “united front,” this one had a largely leftist composition. Driven home by the bulk of the marchers marching down Mendiola afterward, a ritual that has lost a great deal of its power over the years. With not unexpected results: Where last year’s rally was rich in quantity and quality, drawing in a multitude of people or varying persuasions, this one drew in a sparse and pretty much like-minded crowd.

Two was that last year’s rally focused on an issue, this one focused on a personality. And the sublimely ironic thing is that for the first time in our political life, issue trumped personality.

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Last year’s rally was all about pork, its informal organizers kept saying it wasn’t about destabilizing government, certainly it wasn’t about ousting P-Noy. You needed no further proof of it than that Corona made an appearance there and got booed for his pains. The marchers’ message was simple: Don’t use this for your political agenda.

This year’s was completely different. Its chief point was ousting P-Noy, specifically by way of impeaching him. That’s what made it largely forgettable. The news on TV last Monday uniformly had it as fourth or fifth story of the day. It was nowhere close to headline stuff, despite the advertisement that had been leading up to it.

Frankly, I don’t know why government’s enemies persist with that tack. P-Noy’s vulnerability is not himself, however his numbers have been falling over the past year. His vulnerability is the people around him, notably Abad, Mar Roxas, and the top officials of the Liberal Party, or the growing perception that he is boxed in by them, that he is resting the fate of the nation on them. That’s what’s bringing his numbers down. That’s what’s causing members of his official and personal families to abandon his unofficial “anointed” and go for Jojo Binay. Their mantra is: “I trust P-Noy absolutely, I distrust the people around him absolutely.”

The efforts to demonize P-Noy—one placard in the rally last Monday put him side by side with Marcos—won’t demonize P-Noy, it will demonize the people doing it. Certainly, it will alienate them from the same people who attended last year’s rally. It won’t get them heard, which is a pity as their point about hidden pork in next year’s budget is an interesting one, is a hear-able one.

That was the day that was, the day of the pig.

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TAGS: Anti-Pork, Butch Abad, department of agriculture, Department of Interior and Local Government, Grassroots Participatory Budgeting Process, Million People March, pork, pork barrel, Renato corona, Serafin Cuevas
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