MANILA, September 20, 2013–The Catholic Bishops’ Conference of the Philippines (CBCP) urged the faithful in his archdiocese to support another mass gathering slated on September 29 to call for the abolition of the graft-tainted pork barrel system.

Cebu Archbishop Jose Palma, in a statement dated September 13, exhorted the Catholic faithful in Cebu to take part in the rally to support moves that call for transparency and accountability in the country’s political landscape.

“In view of the pork barrel controversy, the Catholic Bishops’ Conference of the Philippines (CBCP) exhorts the Catholic faithful to fulfill the Christian duty to transform society and restore all things in Christ,” Palma said.

The rally will begin with a Eucharistic celebration to be held at Fuente Osmeña Circle at 1:30 p.m. The protesters will march to Osmeña Blvd, Sanciangko, and back to Fuente Osmeña Circle where a program will take place.

“The call is for everyone to be concerned, to be discerning, to be involved,” he added.
Palma encouraged priests to concelebrate the mass and asked schools, lay organizations, and religious groups to send delegates to the gathering.

In a separate video message, Palma said he will not be able to attend the rally but assured that he supports the movement and its cause.

“I would like to ask for your understanding that because of a prior commitment, I could not be with you on September 29. But my heart, love, and prayers are with you as we look forward to this rally, to this coalition against pork barrel,” he said.

“May I invite you to find time to join, if this is within the bounds of the circumstances of your time and opportunity? I ask for your prayers for the success of this rally,” he added.

The prelate stressed the need for participants to pray for the resolution of the controversy, urging them not only to protest and express their disgust over the appalling cases of fund misuse in the government, but to also seek Divine intervention in their quest for truth and justice.

“When you come, please be open to the thought that here we are not only decrying a bad practice. Here we are also praying to be able to discern, study, learn, and even recommend solutions that would respond to the questions often asked when the pork barrel is scrapped off,” he said.

The Cebu Coalition against Pork Barrel System, a group that calls for the abolition of lump-sum appropriations in government finances, is organizing the march.

Petition vs corruption

Palma also urged the faithful to sign the petition composed by different civil organizations dubbed “Unity Statement Against Corruption.”

Aside from expressing opposition to the pork barrel scheme, the statement also calls for transparency and accountability through calling for the immediate resignation and punishment of government officials and other personalities who are involved in the multi-billion pork barrel scam.

“In the pork barrel system, lump-sum amounts are placed at the discretion of only one person; which allows him/her to use public funds for patronage politics, political dynasties and personal gain. We are united in condemning this corruption,” the statement read.

To educate the people more about the advocacy pushed by various civil society groups, priests in the Archdiocese of Cebu will explain the contents of the petition in their homilies.

The statement also called on government leaders to revert stolen funds back to the government coffers.

“We will definitely discern and (hopefully) be able to recommend solutions as we study the dynamics of the executive, legislative, and judicial branches of the government,” Palma added. (Jennifer M. Orillaza)