By Manny Piñol

- in Opinion, Politics

Editorial lapse or corruption?

At the start of the rice importation controversy, I already sensed that there is a media campaign to influence government policy on whether to import or not and who should import.

This morning, I saw an article written by Business Mirror reporter Jasper Emmanuel Y. Arcalas which totally distorted what I said during an interview he had with me yesterday making me look stupid by saying I changed my mind on the issue of importation.

“The chief of the Department of Agriculture (DA) said on Thursday he has changed his mind, and is now urging President Duterte to allow the National Food Authority (NFA) to import rice for its buffer stock during the lean months,” the lead paragraph of the article said.
The recorded interview will prove that I never said I changed my mind on the importation issue.

My position on the matter of rice importation has been very consistent.

1. I have never said that there should be no rice importation because I know that there is still a shortfall of about 500,000 to 800,000 metric tons in the country’s rice supply which need to be sourced through importation;

2. However, I recommended to President Rody Duterte that rice importation should not be done during peak harvest season of local farmers because this is being used by unscrupulous traders to manipulate the buying price of paddy rice;

3. It is also my view that if the intention of the importation is to beef up government buffer stocks, the importation should be done on a government-to-government scheme so that the rice stocks will be kept in government warehouses.

4. I also hold the position that the remaining rice requirements of the country outside of the buffer stocks could be imported by the private sector.

During the interview yesterday, Arcalas and two other reporters brought up the issue on the claim of the National Food Authority (NFA) that its buffer stock of rice is down to only 10 days.

He and the two other reporters asked me what my reaction was to this report and I told them that if there is really a need to import rice, the right time is now because of two reasons:

1. The harvest season is over and the farmers enjoyed a good price for their produce;
2. The world market price of rice is low because of a huge volume of rice stocks in the rice exporting countries of Indo-China.
The story published by Business Mirror said I changed my mind and made it appear that I am in a hurry to ask the President to allow NFA to import rice.

As a former newsman myself, I can smell from a mile away a slanted story and the Business Mirror story was obviously an item intended to influence President Duterte to allow NFA to import rice.

After reading the story, I immediately called up Jasper Arcalas, who I consider as a bright young reporter and a nice kid, on why he wrote the story the way it was published.

Arcalas admitted that it was the desk editor who rewrote his story.

Why am I incensed by the way the story was written?

The phrase “changed his mind” implies incompetence and a lack of consistent adherence to a policy on my part.

By making it appear that I changed my mind, Business Mirror’s story could mean that I was influenced by money, thus an implication that I am corrupt.

I have repeatedly said publicly that if people would call me lazy or incompetent, I would go to great lengths to ask myself whether I am really guilty of such accusations.

But when people accuse me of corruption, I will fight back because this involves my honor and integrity as a public official and my dignity as a human being.

With this said, I am demanding a public apology from the Business Mirror and I am publicly accusing the desk editor who slanted Arcalas’ story of working for the interests of groups who would benefit from the NFA rice importation.

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