Facebook protest sparks call for major Philippine rally

MANILA - Anger in social media at the misuse of Philippine state funds has snowballed into calls for a rally expected to attract thousands, an organiser said Sunday.

Calls for a "million people march" scheduled for Monday began circulating on Facebook and Twitter about two weeks ago after local press reports of a scam involving the Priority Development Assistance Fund.

The fund is money allocated for lawmakers to be used in 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 who allegedly connived with legislators to siphon off some 10 billion pesos (S$289 million) from the fund.

"We demand transparency and accountability," the organisers said in their online invitation on Facebook. "Abolish pork barrel."

One of the organisers, Peachy Rallonza-Bretana, said the idea for the march originally circulated among her circle of friends but quickly caught on. "There really is no group organising this," she told the Philippine Daily Inquirer, adding it was "snowballing at great speed".

As of Sunday afternoon, nearly 18,000 people had said they would join marches culminating in what the organisers said would be a peaceful "picnic get together" in Luneta Park in central Manila.

Activists in other cities have said they would hold simultaneous marches in support of the Manila protest.

Various religious, professional, business and leftist organisations have also signified interest in joining the protest.

"We are aghast, disgusted and enraged at such a wanton display of shamelessness by those who we elected to serve and protect the people," read a manifesto of support signed by some alumni of the elite Philippine Military Academy who are no longer on active duty.

"We cannot and we will not tolerate this any more even those from among our own," it said.