Freeman Region

In Negros Occidental: Protests, prayer vigil greet SONA While officials, bizmen sign manifesto of support for PNoy

Marchel P. Espina - The Freeman

BACOLOD CITY, Philippines  — At least 1,000 people joined the protest rally in this city yesterday when President Benigno Aquino III delivered his 5th State of the Nation Address at the Batasan in Quezon City.

The protests were staged simultaneous with those in Iloilo City, Tacloban City and other parts of the Visayas, while 36 government officials and business leaders in Negros Occidental signed a manifesto of support for the president and his controversial disbursement acceleration program.

The Bacolod protesters marched from the Rizal Park to the Public Plaza, where multi-sector leaders delivered their own SONA ng BAYAN, or what they termed as the people's version. Christian Tuayon, secretary general of Bayan-Negros, called for the impeachment of Aquino, as he urged the masses to support the cause.

The Diocese of Bacolod, for its part, held a prayer vigil for integrity, accountability and transparency in public service on the eve of Aquino's SONA.

Father Felix Pasquin, rector of San Sebastian Cathedral, said the prayer vigil was aimed at raising the awareness of the faithful on the need for authentic public service that is marked with integrity, accountability and transparency, not with cover-ups, corruption and self-serving agenda.

The faithful are looking for the truth, as Pasquin cited the pressing matters on DAP and the Priority Development Assistance Fund. The prayer vigil is an expression of condemnation of the perceived partiality and partisanship in the investigation and that of corruption as a whole, said Pasquin.

Pasquin added the prayer vigil was a movement for hope that, through the guidance of the Holy Spirit, "our government officials will pursue the common good of the Filipino people."

Lawyer Gerald John Joven, president of the Philippine Association of Court Employees -Negros Occidental, said judges and court employees in the province joined the nationwide Black Monday protest, where more than 90 percent of the judges and court workers wore black shirts in calling for a free and independent judiciary.

Marañon was the first local chief executive in the country to initiate a signature campaign to back the embattled president. He noted that Aquino "is honest and not a corrupt leader," as he cited that the province had benefited from this administration.

Aside from Marañon, other officials who signed the manifesto were: Vice Governor Eugenio Jose "Bong" Lacson; 2nd district Representative Leo Rafael Cueva; and Provincial Board Members Rolando Ponsica (1st district), Salvador Escalante Jr. and Miller Serondo (both of the 2nd dist.), Johnna Ko (3rd dist.), Victor Javellana and Jose Benito Alonso (both of the 4th dist.), Renato Malabor and Alain Gatuslao (both of 5th dist.), Pedro Zayco Jr. and Helen Zafra (both of 6th dist.), and Mark Cui (ABC Federation president).

The mayors of the cities of Bago, Cadiz, Escalante, Kabankalan, La Carlota, Sagay and Sipalay, as well as of the towns of Binalbagan, Candoni, Cauayan, Hinigaran, Hinobaan, Isabela, La Castellana, Manapla, Murcia, Pontevedra, San Enrique, Toboso, Valladolid and EB Magalona also signed the manifesto.

Other signatories were DILG provincial director Ma. Joy Maredith Madayag; Frank Carbon, president of Metro Bacolod Chamber of Commerce and Industry, and Roberto Magalona, director of Hotel and Restaurant Association of Negros Occidental.

The manifesto cited the programs reportedly funded by DAP that benefited the people of Negros Occidental including the P1 billion for agriculture, infrastructure and healthcare; and P3 million for Pantawid Pamilyang Pilipino Program beneficiaries.

The manifesto, in supporting the DAP, states: "We are very much aware of the importance of the budget system in the government's effort to promote a stable economy and spur the country's economic growth. A responsive budget system is vital in ensuring that the government will be able to immediately address the needs of its people."

It added: "We, thus, hope that the Supreme Court will take a second look at this issue with an open mind and greater consideration of the realities that are happening on the ground. ... His (Aquino) decision to appeal the Supreme Court ruling proves his readiness to stand for what he believes will benefit his people. That is the mark of a true leader. For that, we give him our support."










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