Who is Organizing This Luneta Protest Gathering? By Gang Badoy

Luneta Protest 2013


Since the controversy surrounding the alleged scam of Janet Lim-Napoles broke out, there has been a torrent of articles and photos that have come out linking the now fugitive to several legislators. Simply put, most articles allege that Napoles started several non-government organizations or NGO's that accept financial allocations from certain legislators' Priority Development Assistance Fund (PDAF) for supposed projects. In turn, some legislators keep a percentage or a cut.


Coincidentally, her daughter’s steady online presence in the form of micro-blogs and even an Instagram account, documenting her high and lavish lifestyle in captioned photos (showing trips to Europe, her outfits-of-the-day, and even a Porsche as a surprise graduation gift from her folks) has inadvertently made her the poster girl for this alleged scam.


With each exposé, there has been a rise of reactions among people online. Everyone's timeline would show a link, an acerbic status post, and some excerpts from the recent Commission on Audit report on the PDAF allocations. Just like the steady wave of stories on Napoles, other angles have been coming to light. All of them however remain allegations.


Many of us got tagged onto a status post, an invite to "go to Luneta on Aug 26, National Heroes Day to show our protest." In a few days, a Facebook page was up. Now many people know about "this million people march" to tell the people in power that we've had enough. The common sentiment being a call to "get to the bottom of this scam, probe, charge, prosecute whoever is involved, and eventually abolish the PDAF."


Since there was no ONE recognizable group making "the call"-the usual noisy suspects have been silent-many people started asking and doubting the agenda of the gathering. "Who's organizing this?" echoed through Twitter and Facebook. Many were afraid that it was a set-up. A lot were wary of being associated with this or that collective from the broad spectrum of Philippine political leanings.


Last night I was having a highly charged discussion during a meal with friends when a lady in red shows up. We apparently have a common friend. Her name is Peachy Rallonza-Bretaña. According to her, she was the one who FIRST re-posted the call of Ito Rapadas. (Ito was the lead singer of a band called Neo-Colors from the early 90s) BUT- it was Peachy who posted “the call to action” and she was the one who put the time and place - and it was this that was spread and tossed around Facebook via tags and links. In response, Bernardo Bernardo and Monet Silvestre (a stage actor and a musician respectively) who were also the first ones to repost this suggestion put up a Facebook page with a California-based Phil-Am TV show called "Power ng Pinoy." Peachy says she was tagged as a "host" on the event page, made administrator, and identified as being the spearhead of this August 26 protest. I asked her, "Well, are YOU the organizer? There have been questions, you see. Is there a program? A permit? What can we expect? Who will be beside me if I go?"


She looked a little beat, and a lot overwhelmed so I stopped to let her speak.


I learned that Peachy has no affiliation with any political group or movement. She is not sinister-in fact, she is quite reserved. I didn't see an agenda-filled demagogue. All I saw was a taxpayer who is very angry at what is happening. She is angry and is just inviting people to gather, essentially asking them if they are angry, too. “Luneta is a public space,” she says, "This is just an invitation to go on August 26, National Heroes Day, to go to Luneta, and stake their claim on a little piece of our national historic park."


The broad stroke of the gathering is this: probe and prosecute those who are found guilty of scamming taxpayers' money through this revealed PDAF scam. I imagine many people will go for many other reasons. Some will call for the abolition of the PDAF all together. Perhaps further down the road some group will be pushing for a Freedom of Information Act, which would act as a deterrent against these shady deals.


I suppose since it appears that there is really no ONE organizer behind this-save for this cropped haired, now-nervous lady in red, then you must go for your own reasons. If you go then you organized yourself to go. This may sound naive, weak even to the more seasoned street protesters, but it is certainly a voice that is growing and cannot be ignored, not by those in power and certainly not by anyone who sincerely wants a better way of doing things.


Go if you want to, stay in if that's what you feel is best. For as long as you have sound reasons for either decision-well and good. The important thing is that you made one, after all.

Viva demokrasya.

photo (41)


photo (42)


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