MANILA, August 26, 2013–Following recent developments on the “appalling” pork barrel scam that has robbed multi-billion pesos from nation’s coffers in the past 10 years, a group convened by church and labor leaders assailed the Aquino government for its continued patronage over the pork barrel system.

The Churchpeople-Workers Solidarity (CWS), in a statement, criticized President Aquino’s announcement on Friday, saying that his decision to abolish the pork barrel was merely for the sake of appeasing outraged citizens who are pushing for a nationwide protest on Monday.

“President Aquino’s announcement of the abolition of the Priority Development Assistance Fund (PDAF) was clearly an attempt to stop the scheduled Luneta demonstration and diffuse the anger of the people over the pork barrel system,” the group said in a statement signed by convenors Sr. Lydia Lascano and Rev. Ephraim Fajutagan, Obispo Maximo of Iglesia Filipina Independiente.

With the present administration’s continued support on the pork barrel scheme, the group questioned the integrity of the “daang matuwid” and “anti-corruption” drive of the Aquino government.

“Pnoy is likewise wearing a “mask of righteousness” in order to appear upright and clean. The stench of his government is reeking everywhere,” the group said.

CWS described as “contemptible” the lacking action of the Aquino administration in uncovering the truth behind the issue.

Noting the country’s perennial problem on widespread unemployment, low income, and rampant exploitation of blue-collar laborers, the group expressed dismay over the squandered funds which could have been used for social services such as health care, education, and housing.

“While the number of Filipinos who experience hunger is continuously increasing, state colleges and other universities are raising tuition fees, public hospitals are being privatized, MRT and LRT rates are set to increase and the poor are being asked to pay dearly for other basic social services,” their statement read.

“The massive corruption within the Aquino government is inflicting severe damage to the country particularly to the poorest people most particularly, the rural and urban poor,” the group added.

Echoing the call of the outraged public, CWS called on government officials to scrap the P25 billion pork allocation in the 2014 national budget and just use the amount to subsidize social services, noting that the pork scheme only heightens corruption in the government.

“CWS believes that the pork barrel has only aggravated patronage politics that has plagued the country’s political system…We remain steadfast in our Christian vocation to do what is right and just and to raise the people’s consciousness on the issue of corruption under the present government,” their statement read.

‘Web of corruption’

Meanwhile, the Missionaries of the Sacred Heart criticized the “web of corruption” emanating in the country’s political landscape, noting that the degree of graft and corruption has already penetrated the three branches of the government, as well as the various departments they cover.

In a statement, the group also condemned the continuous flourishing of the pork barrel scheme, noting that it has retained the same corrupt operation despite undergoing numerous name changes.

Before being labeled as PDAF, the lump sum for pork allocation was once referred to as the Congressional Initiative Allocations (CIA) and Countrywide Development Fund (CDF).

“Government-sponsored development contracts are cornered by government officials’ family and crony corporations, through fixed and rigged pre-agreed biddings, each tier of the contract implementation—from the highest public official to the lowest barangay captain—receiving a cut, commission, or bribe from a standard 20% down the ladder,” the group said.

“Today, this abuse of public trust has become widespread through the use of bogus and real Non-Government Organizations (NGOs) or Civil Society Organization (CSOs) whose existence is defined more by the money to be pocketed, rather than by real help to the poor and the people in need,” the group added.

They also chided the presidential pork allocation amounting to a multi-billion fund, noting that it must be scrutinized to avoid further corruption and to assess the public spending of the country’s chief executive.

“We demand accountability, transparency, and responsibility from our public servants and the groups of NGOs and CSOs in the use of public funds. We demand justice and restitution for the thievery, corruption, injustice and murder that have victimized our people,” their statement read. (Jennifer M. Orillaza)