In the Philippines, there’s something we call the Priority Development Assistance Fund. It’s got good intentions – it’s to help establish local projects with LGUs (Local Government Units) to help improve the current way of living.

We call it the “pork barrel”.

The thing is – this PDAF isn’t given directly to the LGUs – they’re given to senators to dole out. And that’s where the whole corruption thing comes in.

Senators aren’t wiling to give this money – often in the billions of pesos – to the LGUs. Instead, they set up projects where 20% of the budget goes to its completion, while the other 80% goes to their own personal bank accounts. You can imagine how heavily inflated the costs of these projects could get – in the picture below, one flagpole project costs P8M – that’s roughly $200,000.

To replace one flagpole.

And this is just one of the ‘cheaper’ projects.

The current president won the elections based on his promise of a “daang matuwid” – the ‘straight road’. Except it’s come to light that his slice of the pork barrel is even bigger than any of his predecessors. – his allotment amounts to  1 trillion pesos.

Public outrage rose this month when a whistleblower revealed the fact that a businesswoman named Janet Napoles was one of those responsible for diverting pork barrel funds. Records now show that she, together with many other senators, helped set up NGOs that didn’t actually exist, in order to receive the funds supposedly for these organizations – and scamming the people out of over P10 billion.

The 1 Million March was a protest rally staged not just in Manila, but all over the country, because people are sick and tired of being repeatedly swindled out of their own tax money in order to line government officials’ pockets. It’s one of the biggest rallies I’ve attended, and I’m glad I did.

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The protest was held at Rizal Park, one of Manila’s most popular tourist attractions. The defining feature of Rizal Park is this monument to the Filipino national hero, Jose Rizal, who was accused of starting a revolution against Spain and the Catholic church, and was executed here. Here is also a rare attempt at a selfie.

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People yelled “Wag mag-baboy! Makibaka!” (‘Don’t be greedy! Join our fight!’) “Baboy” means pig, alluding to the pork barrel scam, and “baka” means cow. The phrase could be then construed as a pun, to go for beef instead of pork.

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A picture of businesswoman Janet Napoles, who has now gone into hiding.

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Free anti-pork barrel face painting and watercolor tattoos

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A figure of Jose Rizal, the Philippines’ national hero, sits beside a sign condemning political dynasties. Most current senators are either celebrities or people whose family have been sitting in Congress for years. Because the majority of those who vote are poor people, they vote for these same corrupt politicians over and over again. In exchange, they receive doleouts. Some poor people have been known to sell their votes for beer.

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A depiction of current president Noynoy Aquino. Another one below.

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Six senators found to be abusing their pork barrel funds, setting up fake NGOs with businesswoman Janet Napoles’ help. The sign reads: “Dear Bishops, are you still going to ask us to vote for these Team [pro]Life (anti-RH senators)? We’ll be doomed.” RH refers to the Reproductive Health bill, which aims to provide sex education and assistance to poor people. These senators are against the bill, arguing that condoms and birth control pills are abortificents, and were supported by the local Catholic church. If  the person on the far right (Sotto) might sound or look familiar, I’ve railed against him before, too. He’s one of the asses that tried to sign in SOPA in the Philippines.

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Another Noynoy Aquino effigy

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A trivia corner: “Could anyone tell me how many billions of pesos were taken out of the PDAF?”

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Sign reads: “We don’t want pigs, pigs, pigs”

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“Abolish me – country first”

the view from above