Martial Law and the Pork Barrel System
NAFCON commemorates the anniversary of one of the most important periods in Philippine history and realizes its relevance today.
Filipinos commemorate the anniversary of Martial Law in the Philippines for many reasons, but possibly the most important one is to remember a time when a nation united to fight against oppression and won.
Martial law in the Philippines, like martial law anywhere, was terrible. People’s basic freedoms were taken away. A curfew was set requiring people to be home before dark. Anyone could be arrested without any reason. Many were. And much worse, if you were taken, you could be detained in prison for years, tortured, or even killed.
One of the most unwanted aspects of life during Martial law was the general reality that you had to live in fear of the government. This is a sad reality because a government is supposed to be for the people.
However, in commemorating Martial Law, we not only remember the oppression, but of equal importance, we remember the spirit of Filipinos to fight back. This includes the many acts of resistance carried out by those who organized against the Marcos regime and others who participated in various ways.
Today, in the face of the ground-shaking Pork Barrel scandal, this spirit to fight back against an unjust government returns. The scam that was exposed in July of this year, revealing a system of stealing implemented since time immemorial, by dozens of Philippine lawmakers, has ignited protest throughout the world calling for an end to the Pork Barrel system!
Rightfully so, calls are not only pointed at Congress, but also focus on scrapping the biggest pork barrel of all – President Aquino’s. (A congress person’s pork barrel ranges from 70 million to 200 million pesos. The President’s pork barrel can be up to one-trillion pesos and there is no system to audit it.) Although Aquino has said he will abolish pork barrel, everyone knows that the name of the program will change, but the same system will be in place.
So in commemoration of Martial Law, the National Alliance for Filipino Concerns (NAFCON) challenges the Filipino people to realize the connections between our past and our present. NAFCON points out that in the same way that changing the name of pork doesn’t change the fact that there will still be pork, saying Martial Law ended and Marcos fell in 1986 doesn’t change the fact that, in many ways, Martial Law is still alive and present today.
We have the opportunity to realize this while the current Philippine president is Aquino. Not, Corazon Aquino, who took power immediately after Marcos, but Benigno Aqunio Jr. aka Noynoy, the son. Ironically, Noy Noy’s campaign slogan was “Daang Matuwid”, meaning the “straight path” which symbolized his promise to fight corruption for what he claimed were his true bosses, the Filipino people.
Aquino’s promises aimed to make people believe that the government was getting better and so there was no need to fight. Much like his mother, and maybe even because of her memory, Aquino initially inspired hope, or at least carried its illusion.
The uncovering of Pork Barrel has shattered the illusion beyond repair. Daang Matuwid is now Daang Baluktot (crooked path). And similar to the days of Martial Law the Filipino people are forced to face the reality two decades later, that wide-spread and systematic corruption continue within an unjust government.
Also similar to the days of Martial Law, the trampling of the Filipino people’s basic rights still happens daily. Under Aquino, there have been 142 extra-judicial killings and 16 enforced disappearances. Although these numbers are much smaller than his predecessor, it is also important to note that not one of the over 1,000 cases of extrajudicial killings and enforced disappearances under Gloria Arroyo were solved under Aquino. No killer has been found or prosecuted in any of the cases including those under Aquino – another one of his campaign promises left unfulfilled.
In reality, what disappeared most after 1986 is not the injustice in government, but the intensity of the Filipinos fight against it. From time to time, this intensity showed signs of life. We saw it in 2000, against ERAP in EDSA2. We even saw hints of it in 2005 during the OUST GMA movement in in the face of the Hello-Garci scandal. And now in 2013 we see it again back today.
Yes, the spirit of the Filipino people that fought against martial law is back. Once again people are fed up; not only with pork barrel, not only with corruption, but most fed-up with a government that continues to sell out the Filipino people.
In remembering Martial Law, NAFCON encourages us to affirm that changing the name of pork doesn’t change that it is pork and changing Presidents does not mean changing a corrupt government. It does not matter if it is a government led by Marcos, Cory, ERAP, GMA, or Noynoy, it is still not one for the people.
Ultimately, NAFCON argues that we should not trust the president or any one in government to be the solution. In fact the only way to truly change the situation of our people is to keep the fighting spirit of the Filipino people alive and strong. We should not be satisfied with people power movements that change presidents. What we truly want is people power movements that change the conditions of poverty and joblessness that has existed for too long.
So in commemoration of Martial Law, NAFCON reaches out to all Filipinos in the U.S. and around the world and extends an invitation to unite to build the fighting spirit of the Filipino people because when we remember Martial Law we should realize that our fight for a just and peaceful country is not yet over.