VERA FILES FACT CHECK: Cynthia Villar DID NOT say ‘farmers want to be asenderos’

Posts carrying a false quote by Sen. Cynthia Villar about farmers wanting to be "asenderos" or large farm owners for asking for high rice prices have been circulating on Facebook (FB) and Twitter since May 21.

An infographic bearing a 2015 photo of Villar by The Philippine Star, had this text superimposed on the image:

“Tama lang ‘yung limang pisong tubo kada kilo ng palay. Ang problema kasi sa mga magsasaka, gusto nila maging asendero (A profit of five pesos per kilo of unmilled rice is just right. The problem with farmers is that they want to be large farm owners).”

A search online shows no record of the senator making such a statement. No interview, or news report or official transcript of any press briefing bears Villar’s alleged quote.

The closest resemblance to the false quote was an opinion Villar expressed during a Sept. 3, 2019 Senate Committee hearing on the implementation of the Rice Tariffication Law, which specifically discussed the “Impact of the Liberalization of Rice Importation, Exportation and Trade.” Villar sits as chairperson of the Senate Committee on Agriculture Food and Agrarian Reform.

During the hearing, the senator proposed that farmgate prices be set at the average buying price of rice which is P17 per kilo. In 2018, the average rose to P22.11 per kilo due to inflation.

Pwede na natin ibalik sa P17 ang ating pag-suma kasi P12 ang puhunan nila, P17 ipagbibili, kumikita na sila ng P5 per kilo ng palay (We can bring back the P17 in our calculation because (farmers') investment is P12 and selling price is P17, so they earn P5 per kilo of rice).

I think P17 is the regular price of palay (unmilled rice). It's too much to ask [for] P21, P20 [because] last year was not a normal occurrence.”

The fabricated quote card made the rounds on social media after Villar on May 20 apologized for her statement on excluding the middle-class in the cash aid handed out under the social amelioration program (SAP). The fake infographic became part of a collection of quotes uttered by Villar on various social issues that netizens compiled. The rest of the infographics in the posts accurately reflected Villar’s past pronouncements.

(Editor's Note: VERA Files has partnered with Facebook to fight the spread of disinformation. Find out more about this partnership and our methodology.)

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