He even cooked the rice himself, he said.
Agriculture Secretary Emmanuel Piñol ate weevil-infested rice in front of the camera Friday night as he tried to assure the public that such was safe for consumption.
Piñol pulled the PR stunt amid calls for his ouster following the dwindling supply of rice and the resulting surge in prices. The shortage has prompted suggestions that consumers should consider eating “bukbok
” rice because it only needs to be washed.
Piñol also helped himself to some galunggong
, which used to be regarded as poor man’s fish but which is also now in scarce supply. Even bangus
is also said to be in short supply.
The Agriculture secretary has thus far enjoyed the confidence of the President, who refuses to acknowledge that Piñol has committed any serious offense.
“We have not really lost anything except that there’s an aberration in the market,” said Mr. Duterte.
But the aberration has made the lives of Filipinos, for whom rice is a fixture on the table, difficult. In some areas the price of a kilo of rice has soared to more than P70—a big adjustment especially since they also have to grapple with the increase in the price of other goods and services.
That’s a serious offense as far as the people are concerned—but perhaps not serious enough by the President’s standards for his own men and women.
Rice is quite literally a gut issue and this government should not trivialize the people’s woes by suggesting they alter their lifestyle by eating other grain types, or be content with inferior variety, or even see the legalizing smuggling in some areas as Piñol suggested.
Firing the officials whose incompetence drove the rice issue to crisis levels—if they would not even step down in shame in the first place—will send a strong message to the people that the Duterte administration is serious about getting things done and done right.
It appears, however, that Piñol and National Food Authority administrator Jason Aquino are concerned more about hanging on to their posts despite the likelihood of somebody else being able to do the job better.
If Piñol indeed wanted to lead by example, he would do more than publicly eat rice. He would acknowledge his failure to anticipate the problem and to take action to prevent what is happening now.
And if President Duterte also wants to set an example, he should install new, competent and decisive executives to fix the problem and make sure it never happens again. He must weed out incompetent officials —like weevils that must be removed before rice is consumed.