‘Internet loudmouth’ at center of pork protest
More News from Leila B. Salaverria
She’s just an “Internet loudmouth” who could not help venting online her anger over the pork barrel scandal gripping the nation, with allegations about the funneling of people’s money to private pockets.
But with the same burning desire for change as thousands of Filipinos, advertising executive Peachy Rallonza-Bretaña became a central figure in the first massive protest under the Aquino administration.
Bretaña insisted she was not a leader of the Aug. 26 march to Luneta—just the person who suggested the time and the place for the march.
But Bretaña, a mother of three boys, a self-avowed “cat lady” and, to her brothers, their “loudmouth sister,” has become an example of the ordinary, politically unaffiliated citizen who does not want to take the pork barrel issue sitting down.
She did not plan the march but it all came together because people from different backgrounds “stepped up,” she said.
“That’s the whole beauty of that Million People March,” she told the Inquirer.
“It’s not beyond us to be leaders in our little group. It’s not beyond us to speak in one voice. It’s not beyond us to respect each other’s differences. It’s not beyond us to act so amazingly great. We’re capable of it,” she said.
How it began
The march to Luneta arose from people who were not the usual members of the parliament of the streets.
The idea for the rally came from music executive producer and Neocolours vocalist Ito Rapadas, who, angered that taxes were being used to line the pockets of unscrupulous people, shared the thought on Facebook.
Rapadas was not alone. Soon, his friends were reposting his status, including fellow musician Monet Silvestre.
Bretaña saw the post and suggested the rally be held at Rizal Park on National Heroes’ Day.
The idea took off.
The Filipinos behind Power ng Pinoy, a TV program in the United States, created a Facebook event page where thousands signified their intent to join.
People from various backgrounds—cause-oriented groups and the private sector—met to serve as coordinators.
Bretaña said she herself was not an activist. The only rally she attended when she was a student at the University of the Philippines was the 1983 funeral march for assassinated opposition leader Benigno Aquino Jr., the President’s father.
She actually prefers to work alone and pursue the causes she believes in.
That is partly why she chose to “disengage” from the group behind the Facebook event page and those that acted as coordinators of the gathering, she said.
There’s no animosity between them but she said dealing with people from diverse backgrounds, with different levels of involvement, was something she, as a neophyte, was not emotionally prepared to handle.
Hence, her decision to step back.
Bretaña prefers to zero in on an objective and take a more simplified and focused approach.
“The others are so deep in their work and that’s good,” she said. “They’re more exposed, more knowledgeable, so some of them want something different… I’m focusing on the big picture.”
She chose to focus on the call to scrap the pork barrel and hold people accountable, regardless of political affiliation.
‘A long fight’
Even as she returns to her advertising job, Bretaña plans to gain a deeper understanding of the pork issue. She wants people, especially those who ask her what to do next, to do the same.
“The pork barrel issue is going to be a long fight,” she said.
There have been calls for another mass gathering, this one on Edsa on Sept. 11. Bretaña is not connected with the group organizing that and believes it is too soon for such a gathering, she said on Twitter.
Bretaña said the anger that led people to converge at Manila’s Rizal Park continued to simmer.
Not a few were aghast about how alleged scam mastermind Janet Lim-Napoles was seemingly accorded special treatment when she surrendered to the President.
“It was like a production number,” Bretaña mused.
“I wish he hadn’t been personally involved. Because the people’s perception is that there was special treatment given. That’s why it became highly suspicious,” she added.
The pork barrel was not the first cause Bretaña had taken up. She had been pursuing causes dealing with children and animals.
She was one of those who filed a case against TV host Willie Revillame for goading a crying, 6-year-old boy to dance suggestively onstage in exchange for cash.
That complaint was dismissed by the prosecutor but she said the issue raised awareness on how to properly treat children.
Love for animals
As in the Million People March, Bretaña’s involvement in that case arose from her venting her ire on Facebook.
When she saw the video of the crying boy, her anger was so intense she kept on posting messages, hoping to reach someone who could do something about it.
She and other like-minded individuals came together to file the complaint. They are her friends up to now and were even fellow volunteers at the Luneta event.
Her animal welfare advocacy is also something she lives for. She calls herself a “cat lady”— 20 felines share the family home, sometimes taking over her side of the bed.
Most of her cats are “rescues”—fellow animal lovers are welcome to adopt them. Her family also has three dogs, one of them picked up off the streets.
Clean up the system
As shown by Bretaña’s example, one does not need to be a member of any political or cause-oriented group to change something for the better.
Bretaña believes things will improve and hopes the President will take action and succeed.
But currently, many people are unhappy with the way things are, she said.
“It’s just that there is so much distrust, doubt in them. The perception is they are trying to cover each other’s asses, each other’s backs,” she said.
No one is calling for a revolution, she said. People just want to clean up the system so as not to waste the gains the country has achieved.
“I think we’ve matured enough to know that working outside the system is not going to help us,” she said.
“What everyone wants is to clean up the government, not destroy it,” she added.
Mr. Aquino can do this by exercising his willpower, she said.
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