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NEW UPDATES Asean Affairs  26  August 2014  

Activists, churchmen gather in Philippine protest

MANILA: Thousands of people including activists and clergy gathered at the Philippine capital's main park on Monday (Aug 25) in a rally to denounce the "pork barrel" system which they blame for spreading corruption. Organisers said almost 20,000 people joined the rally but observers said the crowd was much smaller, with police putting it at about 5,000 at its peak.

The crowd, which included nuns, priests and lawyers, was significantly smaller than a similar rally over the same issue last year which observers said drew at least 250,000. That rally, called through a vigorous social media campaign, had captured the outrage following reports of a scam involving tens of millions of dollars from the "pork barrel" funds of congressmen.

Such allocations are supposed to pay for the pet projects of legislators but large amounts were allegedly syphoned off. Three powerful senators have already been jailed over the controversy.

Influential Manila archbishop Cardinal Luis Tagle praised those taking part in the "march against pork" in a statement posted on a church social media site. "I extend my greetings and solidarity. Thank you for making democracy alive and active. Thank you for advancing decency in public life," the senior church leader said.

Peachy Bretana, an official of the Scrap Pork Network which was one of the organisers, told ABS-CBN television the issue was non-partisan. "This is not about parties. This definitely is not anti-administration. This is pro-people," she said.

But many of the protesters at the rally used the issue to attack President Benigno Aquino, whom they accused of abetting the pork barrel system and of seeking a second term despite being limited by law to only one term. "No to pork barrel. No to term extension," the placards read as protesters carried effigies of Aquino.

Aquino, who was elected in 2010 on an anti-corruption platform, has seen his approval ratings dip amid accusations that his allies are among the beneficiaries of the pork barrel system. The president did not directly address his critics. But speaking at an event at the military cemetery, he called on the public "to remain vigilant against those who seek to sow doubt and lies" and spread "baseless accusations".

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This year in Thailand-what next?

AseanAffairs   04 January 2011
By David Swartzentruber      

It is commonplace in journalism to write two types of articles at the transition point between the year that has passed and the New Year. As this writer qualifies as an “old hand” in observing Thailand with a track record dating back 14 years, it is time take a shot at what may unfold in Thailand in 2011.

The first issue that can’t be answered is the health of Thailand’s beloved King Bhumibol, who is now 83 years old. He is the world's longest reigning monarch, but elaborate birthday celebrations in December failed to mask concern over his health. More






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