Sr. Mary Francis Borje accompanies 22 of her Aeta students to the 'Million People March' at the Luneta.

MANILA, August 26, 2013—Garbed in their native attire, a group of young Aetas were at the ‘Million People March’ today to protest against the pork barrel system in the country. 

“The reason why I’m here is because I want to unite with the call to end to pork barrel,” 15-year old Marivic Gonzales, one of the Aeta students at the rally today, said in Filipino. 

“Big corruption” 

The eight-grader, who said she knows about the PDAF issue from watching television, explained, the pork barrel system is where “big corruption starts.” 

According to Sr. Mary Francis Borje, SFIC, most of the Aeta communities in the Subic vicinity where she serves are aware of the pork barrel issue and that the 22 students who attended the rally today are representatives of these communities. 

She said the pork barrel scam highlights the need to abolish the Priority Development Assistance Fund (PDAF) and instead use the funds to alleviate the heart-wrenching conditions of marginalized, indigenous peoples like the Aetas, specifically for education needs. 

Education, not pork 

“The money of the people should be used instead to help the poor like the Aetas. There are many Aeta youth who are not able to study, illiterate,” Sr. Mary Francis, administrator of the St. Francis School of Learning (SFSL) said. 

There are many other ways to make use of public funds, she added, handing them over to corrupt politicians is not one of them. 

The SFSL is a school specifically set up for Aeta youth, run by Franciscan Sisters of the Immaculate Conception. 

The Aeta youth’s ages ranged from 15 – 22 years old. 

An estimated 350,000 people marched to Luneta today to demand a complete abolishment of the pork barrel system, despite an announcement last week from Malacañang that public funds will no longer be given to non government organizations and a more “transparent” process for discretionary funds will be set up. [Nirva’ana Ella Delacruz]