VERA FILES FACT CHECK: Piñol falsely claims state TV reporter misquoted him on rice smuggling

Read this fact check in Filipino

Agriculture Secretary Emmanuel Piñol falsely claimed a state television reporter misrepresented what he said earlier about rice smuggling in Mindanao.

STATEMENT

Piñol, recently in the news for sampling bukbok (weevil)-infested rice, complained in a Sept. 3 open letter to Communications Secretary Martin Andanar:

“I am deeply disappointed that a reporter of PTV4, a government television channel, would cause further misunderstanding and confusion on a very important issue by asking President Rody Duterte whether he approves of my proposal to ‘legalize rice smuggling’ in the ZAMBASULTA (Zamboanga, Basilan, Sulu, Tawi-Tawi) area.”

Source: Agriculture Secretary Emmanuel Piñol’s Facebook post, Sept. 3, 2018

He was alluding to a People’s Television (PTV) reporter’s question to Duterte a day earlier:

Isinusulong po ni Agriculture Secretary Manny Piñol na gawing legal po o pa-dokumentuhan po ‘yung mga smuggled rice na ipinapasok po sa Zamboanga, Basilan, Sulu, at Tawi-Tawi. Ano po ‘yung take po natin doon (Agriculture Secretary Manny Pinol is proposing to make legal and document rice shipments smuggled into Zamboanga, Sulu and Tawi-Tawi. What’s your take on this)?”

Source: Departure Statement of President Rodrigo Duterte, Pasay City, Sept. 2, 2018, watch from 7:00 to 7:18

Piñol said the reporter’s question is “wrongly premised” and missed his point:

“If the rice shipped in through the proposed (trading center) is covered with import permits, charged with appropriate tariffs and duties and covered with quarantine and sanitary clearances, would that still be ‘smuggling?’ Of course, NO! That becomes now a legitimate rice importation. Is that really difficult to understand?”

Source: Agriculture Secretary Emmanuel Piñol’s Facebook post, Sept. 3, 2018

FACT

Piñol himself floated the idea to “legalize” or “make legitimate” rice smuggling.

In an Aug. 28 interview on ABS-CBN News Channel's Headstart, he said:

“I’m making a proposal: Kasi tradisyon sa kanila ‘yung umasa ng bigas sa kabila eh, so sabi ko (Since it’s tradition in the area to smuggle rice), rather than allow smuggling, an illegal activity, to continue, we might as well legalize it.”

Source: ANC Headstart, clip of Aug. 28 interview with Agriculture Secretary Emmanuel Piñol, watch from 0:33 to 0:45

He also said:

“Everybody there is on the take, so why doesn’t government step in and legalize everything? Make it, make it legit.”

Source: ANC Headstart, Rice 'trading center' in south to curb smuggling, Piñol says, Aug. 28, 2018, watch from 0:38 to 0:43

In an Aug. 28 interview with the GMA News show Saksi, Piñol was asked if he thinks the National Food Authority Council, the policy-making body in charge of ensuring food supply, would approve of “legalizing” rice smuggling. He said:

“It’s the most practical option. Legalize it. Hindi na (It won’t be) smuggled rice ‘yan (then). Then we are able to control those situations, kaysa maghabulan tayo ng mga bangka diyan (instead of chasing boats).”

Source: GMA News, Saksi: Piñol: Dapat i-legalize ang smuggling ng bigas para mapunan ang supply, Aug. 28, 2018, watch from 1:58 to 2:08

BusinessWorld, Philippine Star and GMA News Online also ran news reports on Piñol’s proposal to "legalize" rice smuggling.

The agriculture secretary has drawn flak and is facing calls for resignation amid the country’s rice crisis, marked by supply shortage in parts of Mindanao, spike in prices and the shipment of bukbok-infested rice from Thailand.

Sources

ABS-CBN News, ANC: Piñol, Villar spar over food crisis, Aug. 29, 2018.

ABS-CBN News Channel, Rice 'trading center' in south to curb smuggling, Piñol says, Aug. 28, 2018.

BusinessWorld, P2B revenue seen from regulated rice trading in ZAMBASULTA, Aug. 29, 2018.

DA Secretary Emmanuel Pinol’s Facebook post, Sept. 3, 2018.

GMA News, Saksi: Pinol: Dapat i-legalize ang smuggling ng bigas para mapunan ang supply, Aug. 28, 2018.

GMA News Online, DA’s Piñol eyes legalized rice smuggling to solve crisis in Zamboanga, nearby areas, Aug. 28, 2018.

The Philippine Star, Batanes out of rice; government to distribute smuggled rice, Aug. 29, 2018.

(Guided by the code of principles of the International Fact-Checking Network at Poynter, VERA Files tracks the false claims, flip-flops, misleading statements of public officials and figures, and debunks them with factual evidence. Find out more about this initiative and our methodology.)

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