MANILA – Newly appointed Presidential Assistant on Food Security and Agricultural Modernization Francis "Kiko" Pangilinan on Tuesday said that looking into alleged anomalous projects of the agencies now under his watch does not make him the Ombudsman.
"I have to stress that I’m not the Ombudsman. We will do preliminary fact-finding, we will gather as much information as we can, [then] we will endorse it to the Ombudsman," Pangilinan told ANC's "Beyond Politics."
Pangilinan said responsible people should be accountable for anomalies.
"Hindi naman pwedeng nagawa iyun at walang mananagot because paano matututo, eh 'di uulitin lang? Ang tingin sa atin, eh hahayaan natin at pababayaan natin. Anong klase namang mensahe ang pinapakita natin sa byurokrasya, na gustong baguin pero wala naman aksyon," he added.
"Pasensyahan na lang because I have to do what I have to do," Pangilinan said.
Pangilinan said President Aquino handed him a folder of the projects that were brought to his attention because of "problems."
On the need to "clean up" some agencies, Pangilinan said he does not see it an "either/or" issue.
"Hindi naman pwede maging maayos ang serbisyo para sa mga magsasaka kung may katiwalian. Eh kaya nga P10 billion nga daw yung Napoles na puro bogus agriculture farming NGOs . So that would have been P10 billion that should have gone to the farmers for greenhouses, for tractors, fertilizers… so a lot sana," he said.
Pangilinan said there is a need to put an end to how farmers' money go to waste.
The same, he said, applies to irrigation projects.
"If your projects are not completed and your irrigation systems are not able to supply water critical for increasing or ensuring a bountiful harvest, affected din and farmers," he explained.
According to the former senator, one needs an efficiently run bureaucracy to effectively deliver.
"Unless you punish the guilty, they will always say they can get away with it. That’s part of the reason why it happened again… If you want to defeat corruption then you’re going to have to put people behind bars, you have to punish people whether it’s a 2-year imprisonment or a life imprisonment. Basta tiyak yung parusa at nangyayari, hindi na mangyayari yung kalokohan, or mababawasan," he said.
ISSUES TO ADDRESS
Pangilinan said the President asked him to address the matter of inclusive growth and poverty.
"So he felt that the last two remaining years, we need to fast-track these efforts in delivering in the area of irrigation, in the area of rice prices, the stability of rice supply, and coconut, kasi iyung pinakamahirap na magsasaka, iyung coconut farmer," he said.
The former senator said one way to solve poverty is addressing farming and agriculture and providing farmers with genuine support.
"I think with the right amount of coordination and support, marami tayong pwedeng gawin. We can accomplish a number of significant things in two years," he said.
RESPECT FOR FARMERS
According to Pangilinan, the first order of business is to impress upon the bureaucracy and the public that farmers should get the respect they deserve.
"I think the reason why Napoles happened, is precisely because walang respeto sa magsasaka. In other nations, they spoil the farmers. In our country it’s different. We abuse, we exploit, we steal from them, which is really not right," he said.
Pangilinan said that if the government wants to achieve food security, farmers and the fisherfolk should be secured.
"Securing them is giving them the support needed so that they can move away from subsistence farming into viable, small clustered farm enterprises," he said.
The government should support farmers, anywhere between the period of two to five years, by way of access to markets, credit, and capacity building, he said.
"I wouldn’t say I know exactly how to farm a field, it’s a different setting. It taught me quite a number of things. It taught me patience. Somebody said that with farming and agriculture, the difficulty is you have a joint venture with the Lord," he said.
"I think we will be able to make headway. We won’t be able to change things overnight but I think there are some changes we can do that will have a significant impact in the sector," he added.