Quezon City flip-flops on anti-pork rally permit
MANILA, Philippines - The Quezon City government will study and decide Tuesday on the application of "EDSA Tayo" rally organizers for a permit to assemble at the EDSA Shrine to hold a vigil on Wednesday calling for the abolition of the pork barrel system.
“We will study further. QC will decide tomorrow,” Quezon City Mayor Herbert Bautista said in a text message to reporters at past 4 p.m. Monday.
Earlier yesterday, Bautista denied the application for a permit to assemble.
Aldrin Cuña, Bautista’s chief of staff, said the mayor earlier sustained the recommendation of the Quezon City Department of Public Order and Safety (QC-DPOS) to reject the application because the shrine could prove too small for the expected number of participants.
QC-DPOS chief Elmo San Diego said that while the activity does not pose a threat to national security, the shrine “is not the proper venue to assemble for it may cause serious traffic condition that would affect the motorists and cause obstruction to pedestrians.”
In their Sept. 4 letter to the QC-DPOS, the organizers of EDSA Tayo said they are expecting an average of 3,000 attendees. But the number of confirmed attendees reached over 5,000 as of yesterday.
They also said that the event would start at 6 a.m. and would end at 6 p.m. But an update in the EDSA Tayo Facebook page showed that the activity would start at 11 a.m. and would end at 4 p.m.
Mandaluyong City grants permit
Yesterday, San Diego said that the local government of Mandaluyong City has granted the permit to conduct rally at the EDSA shrine. The venue is at the boundary of Quezon City and Mandaluyong City.
But EDSA Tayo organizers said that they did not send a request for a permit to assemble to the Mandaluyong City government.
In a phone interview with The STAR, Junep Ocampo, one of the organizers, said that the group is hoping that the Quezon City government would grant their request.
He also appealed to Bautista to allow the vigil to push through as the organizers are doing their best to lessen the inconvenience that the event may cause.
MMDA to deploy 500 traffic enforcers
Pending the decision of the Quezon City government, the Metro Manila Development Authority (MMDA) said it would deploy 500 traffic enforcers for the rally at the EDSA Shrine.
MMDA chairman Francis Tolentino also said the agency would be fielding 37 trucks to ferry people who might get stranded because of the rally.
For his part, National Capital Region Police Office director Marcelo Garbo Jr. said the NCRPO would be on alert on Wednesday.
Garbo said about 500 police officers from the Quezon City Police District will be deployed while another 500 police officers will be placed on standby status.
“We will have a final coordinating meeting with the law enforcers, public safety division of Mandaluyong and Quezon cities because it seems that security plans overlap. We will integrate this into one security plan with the MMDA,” Garbo said.
Vigil not a political event
If the rally would push through, the activity would include a mass that would be celebrated by EDSA Shrine Rector Rev. Fr. Lino Mangussad, lectures by University of the Philippines professor emeritae Winnie Monsod and Leonor Briones, and an interfaith gathering and lighting vigil.
“EDSA Tayo is the start of a prayer vigil against all kinds of pork barrel. It will also include lectures on the issue of pork barrel to enable the public to understand more why it is considered as the root of corruption in the government,” the organizers said.
Ocampo also reiterated that the vigil is not a political event. He said the group could not stop politicians from attending the event, but they can ensure that no politician would be allowed to speak during the program. The use of bullhorns and effigies would also not be allowed.
In a post in the EDSA Tayo Facebook page yesterday, Ocampo denied that the event is backed by the United Nationalist Alliance of Vice President Jejomar Binay.
“Sorry, but this is again another attempt to discredit us and discourage people from attending the Sept. 11 event,” Ocampo noted in his post.
“Last week, these same people linked us to P-Noy. Then they linked us to (former President Ferdinand) Marcos. Now they’re linking us to Binay. They would not stop. And we can only pray for them. Why are they doing this? Your guess is as good as mine,” he added.
The event would fall on the birth anniversary of Marcos, but the organizers said the event has no connection with any political figure, “dead or alive.”
CBCP: Church did not organize vigil
The Catholic Bishop’s Conference of the Philippines (CBCP), meanwhile, clarified that the Catholic Church did not organize the vigil.
The CBCP also said that although church leaders are vocal in the call for the abolition of the pork barrel, the church is not compelling the public to join the event.
“The Catholic Church did not organize that movement. We only gave them permission to use the shrine as the venue of their mass and vigil,” Manila Auxiliary Bishop Broderick Pabillo, head of CBCP-National Secretariat for Social Action, Justice and Peace, said in a report in CBCPNews.
“We allowed them to use the shrine upon seeing that their program is orderly and systematic. They just want to call on the citizens to be more vigilant,” Pabillo added.
The CBCP official also reiterated the collective stand of the CBCP against the pork barrel, noting that the corrupt-ridden system must be totally abolished to restore integrity in the government.
“We call for the total abolition of all forms of pork barrel – from the presidential up to the barangay level. Even councilors and youth leaders (Sangguniang Kabataan) have their own forms of pork. This big amount of money serves as a source of corruption, that is why it has to be abolished,” Pabillo said.
He suggested that it would be better if pork barrel allocations would be directly distributed to various social services of the government.
“The citizens must enjoy free services provided by the government. Instead of coursing the money through politicians to whom the public would just incur a debt of gratitude, why don’t they just allocate the money to social services so people won’t have to ask politicians for dole-outs?” the CBCP official asked. – With Evelyn Macairan, Mayen Jaymalin, Reinir Padua, Non Alquitran, Mike Frialde