Representatives of the Philippines community in Hong Kong called on the Philippine government on Monday to make a greater effort in the fight against “systemic graft and corruption” in their home country.
Against the backdrop of a huge protest in Manila against corruption on Monday, representatives from the local Philippine religious, social welfare and workers' sectors met for a panel discussion on the subject and demanded that Philippine President Benigno Aquino abolish the country’s “pork barrel” system and prosecute politicians responsible for the misuse of public funds.
The Philippine “pork barrel” system was set up in 1922 to allow Philippine congressmen and senators to support emergency projects for constituents using discretionary funds, said community social activist Sonia Zerrudo at the meeting. But it has often been criticised for giving the Philippine government leverage over lawmakers and aiding corruption and the misuse of public funds, she said.
“I am greatly angered by the stealing of public funds,” said Pastor Dan Burlado, who heads a religious group of about 200 members in Hong Kong, and was part of the five-person panel discussing the issue in front of about 20 people who had gathered in a Wan Chai community centre.
“Politicians are stealing for personal gains, while a huge portion of the population lives in shanty towns with no social services, dying without seeing a hospital or doctor,” he said.
Only last month a whistleblower revealed that billions of pesos were being embezzled from the system via “questionable or non-existent non-governmental organisations,” said Hong Kong-based Philippine journalist Jun Concepcion on Monday.
Around 10 billion Philippine pesos were reportedly funnelled through the organisations and into the pockets of public officials, angering millions and triggering Monday's mass protest in the Philippines and in overseas Philippines communities, Concepcion said.
“There is an incestuous relationship between the executive and legislative branches in the Philippines,” he added. “People are clamouring for an end to this system. This is the biggest political challenge so far to the presidency.”
The local expatriate representatives at the meeting said they had a stake in the struggle against corruption in the Philippines as they had “collectively boosted the country’s economy for so many years with remittances and investments.”