Facebook rallies thousands to Philippines graft protest

Facebook rallies thousands to Philippines graft protest
Activists apply finishing touches on an effigy of Philippine President Benigno Aquino.

MANILA - Tens of thousands of people gathered in a central Manila park on Monday to protest against embedded corruption in the Philippine political system after a rallying call on Facebook and Twitter.

The so-called "million people march" is one of the largest public demonstrations since President Benigno Aquino was elected in 2010 on an anti-corruption platform.

The protesters ranged from nuns and priests and students to businessmen, middle-class families, lawyers and other professionals, showcasing the broad-based anger over graft in the impoverished nation.

"The Filipino people are now modern. Proof is the million people march that we can't be fooled by our leaders anymore," a protester calling himself Gundam08 tweeted from the rally site.

Government officials' misuse of funds has been long embedded and practically accepted in the Philippine political system but a series of newspaper articles, like about how government funds were allegedly diverted into private hands, have stirred new anger outside of the usual protest groups.

The calls for the protest began circulating on Facebook and Twitter about two weeks ago after reports in the popular Philippine Daily Inquirer of an alleged scam involving legislators' Priority Development Assistance Fund (PDAF).

The PDAF is money allocated for lawmakers to be used in their pet development projects. Critics see it as funding "pork barrel" projects which have traditionally been a source of corruption.

At the centre of the controversy is a woman the newspapers reported to have allegedly connived with legislators to siphon off some 10 billion pesos (S$294 million) from the fund.

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