A group of farmers has asked Department of Agriculture Secretary Emmanuel Piñol to answer allegations that the department is using millions of government funds to boost the campaign of his daughter, siblings and political allies in North Cotabato province through the projects of the DA intended for poor farmers in ten provinces nationwide.
In a statement, Association of Free Framers (AFF) Vice President Teody De Belen said his group, which is composed of farmers and fisherfolks, criticized Pinol for using most of the projects under the Special Area for Agricultural Development (SAAD) under the DA and concentrated these in North Cotabato province to enhance the campaign of daughter Ma. Krista Piñol, who is running for Board Member in the second district, his siblings Socrates Piñol who is running for Vice Governor, Efren Piñol who is running as congressman for 2nd district, Bernardo Piñol Jr., for Kidapawan City Mayor and Joselito Piñol who is running for Vice Mayor of Mlang.
“Why is Secretary Piñol concentrating on just one province and using government projects to help boost the campaign of his allies,” De Belen said.
Aside from his daughter and siblings, the other beneficiary of Piñol’s SAAD project sorties is his political ally and last-termer Representative Nancy Catamco who is running for provincial Governor.
Catamco is out on bail for a graft case filed before the Sandiganabayan after he was charged with two counts of funds malversation and one count of graft over a P5 million deal under the alleged fertilizer fund scam.
“It looks like Piñol is rebuilding their broken empire in the province at the expense of people’s hard earned money intended for us poor farmers in other provinces who have inadequate access to government farm projects. How about us?” De Belen said.
SAAD is a DA strategy enforced by Piñol upon assumption in office in July 2016.
“With a budget of P721 million in 2018, SAAD was originally designed to alleviate poverty through increased food production and productivity through technology, financing, marketing, and other support services specifically aimed at poor farmers and fisherfolks in Apayao, Negros Oriental, Northern and Eastern Samar, Zamboanga del Norte, Lanao del sur, Maguindanao, North Cotabato and Sarangani. Its budget will be increased to P1. 7 billion this year,” the farmer’s group added.