KMP: No more to Marcoses in Dept. of Agriculture

Imee Marcos as Agri Chief?

KMP: No more to Marcoses in Agriculture
Kilusang Magbubukid ng Pilipinas (KMP) differs from the opinion of SINAG’s Rosendo So endorsing Senator Imee Marcos as a new Agriculture Secretary. While we agree that the Department of Agriculture (DA) deserves a secretary who is “hardworking, may puso sa local farmers, and calibrates importation,” Sen. Imee – like President Bongbong Marcos Jr – does not fit the bill.

Even if So is serious, appointing Sen. Imee, the President’s sibling, as the DA Secretary is unconstitutional. It violates Paragraph 2, Section 13, Article 12 of the Philippine Constitution, which states that “[t]he spouse and relatives by consanguinity or affinity within the fourth civil degree of the President shall not, during his tenure, be appointed as Members of the Constitutional Commissions, or the Office of the Ombudsman, or as Secretaries…”

Presently, Sen. Imee’s stands on various agricultural issues and policies are also lacking and leaning towards the same old neoliberal dogma which has plunged Philippine agriculture to its lowest level in decades.

Sitting as Chair of the Senate Committee on Foreign Relations and Vice Chair of the Committee on Food, Agriculture, and Agrarian Reform, Sen. Imee faces a big challenge to heed the demand of farmers to reject the Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership (RCEP). The proposed trade deal will worsen the country’s vulnerability to the unbridled dumping of agricultural imports and burgeoning trade deficits.

Last January 2022, over 70 agriculture-related organizations released a joint statement, titled “No to RCEP! Don’t make the Philippines an ukay-ukay republic!” By December 2022, Sen. Imee pushed for an RCEP technical working group, aiming to “address concerns.” However, far from categorically standing with farmers and rejecting RCEP, Sen. Imee will most probably sponsor its ratification after much ado “addressing concerns.” Given that, how can the agriculture sector unite behind her? Meanwhile, the signatories to the unity statement rejecting RCEP have almost doubled to 131.

Like Marcos Jr, Sen. Imee has also been deaf to the clamor for the repeal of the Rice Tariffication Law (RTL). This is unsurprising since, as Ilocos Norte Governor, she expressed support for RTL when it was still a proposal in Congress in 2018.

As a legislator, Sen. Imee has snubbed numerous pro-farmer proposals, such as the Genuine Agrarian Reform Bill, the proposed Rice Industry Development Act, the P750 National Minimum Wage Bill, or even the now-enacted Free Irrigation Services Act.

Overall, Sen. Imee’s track record in agriculture is marked with subservience, disregard, and scandal. The 2018 Sandiganbayan conviction of Imelda Marcos for graft (amounting USD200-million) listed her as among the beneficiaries, she was at the center of the misuse of P66-million tobacco excise tax exposed in 2017, and her undeclared bank accounts were among those revealed in the 2016 leak of the Panama Papers, among others.

Is someone with such a soiled public record trustworthy to supervise the P100-billion Coconut Trust Fund (originally stolen under her father’s dictatorship)? Or to head an agency repeatedly flagged by the Commission on Audit for overpricing fertilizers by several million?

Moreover, Imee, with other Marcoses, has failed to significantly improve the lives of Ilocano farmers despite being in power in Ilocos Norte since 1998. The province remains the poorest in the entire Ilocos Region, having a smaller average farm size, worse farmer landlessness, and lower agricultural wages than national averages. Is someone unable to uplift a province capable of addressing our country’s historic crisis in agriculture?

Marcos Jr should have not taken the agriculture portfolio in the first place. His six months in office have been characterized by incompetence, a hands-off attitude, and allowing the rampant importation of rice, onion, pork, and other agricultural products. As such, we are disgusted at the mere prospect of another Marcos replacing another Marcos. Such frank rapacity is utterly unacceptable as farmers face constant bankruptcy (pushing some to suicide), persistent food inflation, depressed farmgate prices, and the ravaging of weather systems. #

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