He wrote a single Facebook status post that galvanized tens of thousands of Filipinos into action.
Music producer Ito Rapadas, disgusted with lawmakers’ abuse of the pork barrel system and siphoning off hard-earned taxpayers’ money to ghost projects through bogus nongovernment organizations, called on a million people to march as a sign of protest.
His friend Peachy Rallonza-Bretana saw the post that had been shared by musician Monet Silvestre, and she took it seriously and gave Rapadas’ call a date and a place. The post went viral. The Million People March was underway.
The public sentiment went from dismay to rage. This time, the many, unknown faces who tweeted and posted comments on Facebook finally had a face, and a voice.
On National Heroes Day, Aug. 26, some 100,000 Filipinos—old and young— trooped to Rizal Park, responding to the online call to protest.
Clad in white, some with fancy eyeglasses, and colorful pig-head masks, the protesters peacefully went to Rizal Park and called for the abolition of the pork barrel system.
Protesters chanted, “Makibaka! ’Wag makibaboy! (Fight! Don’t wallow in the pigsty)” and “Oink! Oink! Oink!”
The organizers, invisible and unknown to the public, were not really expecting to draw a million. There was no prepared script, no speeches, only the desire of the people to unite and be heard. There was no room for politicking and personal agenda.
That was why when impeached Chief Justice Renato Corona came over, the people protested. Unwelcomed, he left quietly.
Former Rep. Mitos Magsaysay, a staunch supporter of the abolition of the pork barrel, was there. “Just a disclosure, I never got my pork barrel for three years,” she told the crowd. She accused President Aquino and Malacañang of using the Priority Development Assistance Fund (PDAF) to control Congress.
Called a “massive pocket picnic,” the protest rally turned out to be a spontaneous, leaderless, open-for-all, say-what-you-want-what’s-important-is-you’re-present kind of rally. It was a peaceful rally of angry taxpayers.
Musician Jim Paredes said he was happy to have helped mobilize the rally. “I’m just so happy to be a part of this,” he explained. “I’m simply a foot soldier in the ‘reform army.’”
William Patrick Buhian from UP Diliman said he joined the rally because he wanted to show his anger. “People should go beyond the issue since corruption is only a symptom of a deeper systemic problem in society,” he said.
Camille Anne Arcilla, 22, said it was her first time to join the rally. “I’m really curious. I also want to feel how the Edsa Revolution 1 and 2 participants felt before.”
“However, I noticed that some just went to join the bandwagon,” she added. “Some of them, although wearing white shirts, seem to not really know the deeper sense of what they are fighting for. There’s this gut feel that if I ask some of them what PDAF and pork barrel are, they will not know the answer.”
The rally might not have reached the million mark, but Rapadas was unfazed.
“Isang milyon man o isang daan lang ang pupunta ay hindi na mahalaga. Dahil nagkakaisa na tayo na ’di na tayo pumapayag at ’di na papayag sa kalokohan nila (It doesn’t matter if we’re a million or a hundred. What matters is that we are united and we can’t be fooled anymore),” the singer-composer said on Facebook. With a report from Denison Dalupang