Pangilinan defends vote on Rice Tariffication Act, gets into heated argument with Bello

Francis "Kiko" Pangilinan got into a heated argument with former Congressman and academic Walden Bello as he defended his move to abstain during the vote for the Rice Tariffication Act (RTA), saying he pushed for alternative measures because he knew exactly the impact of the RTA.

Former Congressman Walden Bello and Senator Francis 'Kiko' Pangilinan (Comelec screenshot)

Pangilinan made the statement after Bello questioned his advocacy for farmers, citing Pangilinan's move to abstain during the RTA vote.

During the Commission on Election (Comelec)'s PiliPinas vice-presidential debate on Sunday, March 20, Bello asked Pangilinan if he went to the washroom during the vote when he should have opposed it if he was really for the welfare of farmers.

"I had reservations, precisely, in supporting the measure, and that's precisely why I abstained, and we moved to amend the law," he said.

"In fact, it has been amended to now allow for cash assistance to be given the rice farmers. We will move against the allocation of the tariffs collected for direct support and assistance for our farmers and fisherfolk," he added.

According to Pangilinan, he pushed for the Sagip Saka Act, which mandates that national and local governments can now buy directly from rice farmers. He likewise called for the full implementation of the Coco Levy Trust Fund measure, which he principally authored.

Bello did not appear satisfied with Pangilinan's response to his query, leading the former to say Pangilinan was "crazy" and that he might not have known the effects of the RTA.

"That's precisely why we pushed for that because we knew of the impact of the Rice Tariffication measure. So I beg to disagree with his view that we are crazy or we are not aware of the implications of the Rice Tariffication measure," Pangilinan said.

"If you disagree with my vote, then let us learn to agree to disagree," he added.

Helping farmers

Meanwhile, Pangilinan said if there was a field he had expertise on that he could confidently share with the president, it is his advocacy for farmers.

The vice-presidential aspirant lamented how old people are still farming when they should be retired because they are still buried in debt.

"Hindi ito makatarungan. Anong klaseng lipunan ang papayag na hayaan na lang na ang mga nagpapakain sa atin, dapat retired na pero nagsasaka pa rin (This is injustice. What kind of society allows the very people feeding them to keep on farming when they should be retired already)?" Pangilinan asked.

"'Yan ang dapat nating ayusin. Tututukan natin ang tulong at suporta at buo sa ating mga magsasaka at mangingisda (That's what we should fix. We will focus on fully supporting and helping our farmers and fishermen)," he added.

Pangilinan said helping farmers would lead to a steady food supply, thus addressing the issue of hunger in the country.

"'Pag ang tulong ay buo, dadami ang kanilang ani, dadami ang huli, dadami na rin ang supply ng pagkain sa ating mga merkado, bababa na ang presyo ng pagkain at mawawala na ang matinding gutom (If we give them full assistance, they will have more harvest and catch, we will have more supply of food in the market, we will bring down the prices of food, and we will eradicate hunger)," he said.