MANILA, Philippines — Senators downplayed on Monday a call for anti-pork barrel protests in Congress by hackers that attacked the websites of the Office of the Ombudsman and other agencies Sunday, but said they were willing to listen to them.
Senate President Franklin Drilon and Senator Ralph Recto said that any Filipino, including the Anonymous Philippines, would be well within his right to stage protest outside Congress.
“Protest is part of our democratic space. We’re used to that. They can always express their opinion and we will listen,” Drilon said by phone from Hong Kong Sunday night.
“Whether or not it is justified is beside the point. We have democratic space, and they can express their views. We will listen,” he added.
Recto agreed with Drilon and curtly said: “Democratic expression should never be feared.”
Senator Sergio Osmeña III said: “Hurray for them. They have a right to be fed up with all the looting.”
The Anonymous Philippines hacked into the websites of the Ombudsman and 37 other agencies and posted a message exhorting Filipinos to join a protest against corruption at the House of Representatives on Tuesday.
While it apologized for the inconvenience, the group said this has become the only way to convey the message to Filipinos who have become “tired of this government and the politicians who only think about themselves.”
“To the corrupt – fear us,” it said.
Senators and House representatives have been skewered for months now over the large-scale misuse of their pork barrel exposed by the Philippine Daily Inquirer and the Commission on Audit.
Senators Jose “Jinggoy” Estrada, Juan Ponce Enrile and Ramon Revilla Jr. are facing a plunder complaint before the Ombudsman over the P10-billion scam along with alleged pork barrel scam operator Janet Lim Napoles and 34 others.
On top of this, they’ve had to fend off criticism that they received additional pork barrel allocations from Malacañang after the Senate convicted Chief Justice Renato Corona for dishonesty in his statement of assets, liabilities and net worth in May 2012.
Senator Antonio Trillianes IV downplayed the impact of the Anonymous Philippines’ “call of action.”
“I believe Filipinos will not follow anonymous virtual movements,” he said in a text message Sunday.
If the protests push through Tuesday, most, if not all, of the lawmakers wouldn’t be there to listen to them. Congress is on Halloween break and will resume sessions on November18.
But Trillianes said Filipinos should “be alarmed about their capability to hack government websites as this could compromise State operations and data storage.”
As they grappled with the backlash of the pork barrel scandal, some senators led by Drilon, Francis Escudero and Vicente Sotto III pushed for the total scrapping of their priority development assistance fund from the 2014 national budget.
And ahead of the hearing on the plunder complaint in the Ombudsman, the Senate Blue Ribbon Committee is resuming its inquiry into the scam this Thursday to hear the testimony of Napoles, as well as the whistleblowers.