Agriculture Secretary Emmanuel Piñol resigns

MANILA, Philippines (4th UPDATE) – Agriculture Secretary Emmanuel Piñol has resigned from his post. 

Senator-elect Christopher "Bong" Go, former special assistant to President Rodrigo Duterte, announced on Thursday, June 27, that Piñol submitted a courtesy resignation to the Chief Executive.

Piñol's letter read: "With the best interest of the Department of Agriculture and its stakeholders, may I request that I be relieved from my present position as secretary of agriculture and reassigned to whichever agency you believe I will be effective, including the Mindanao Development Authority or MinDA."

Go, who was furnished a copy of the resignation letter, said: "Sa tingin niya wala nang tiwala si Pangulong Duterte sa kanya (He thinks President Duterte doesn't trust him anymore). He's willing to leave the position and recommended his undersecretaries to run the office in the next 30 days."

Piñol recommended the brother-in-law of presidential daughter Sara Duterte Carpio to replace him. Agriculture Undersecretary for Special Concerns and Legislative Liaison Office Waldo Carpio had President Duterte as principal sponsor at his wedding.

Aside from Carpio, Piñol also recommended other officials such as Undersecretary for Operations Ariel Cayanan and Undersecretary for Administration and Finance Francisco Villano Jr.

"Hindi na siya (Piñol) makakatulong. Alam 'nyo napaka-sensitive po ng Pangulong Duterte dito sa posisyon na 'to, especially nakataya po ang legacy ng kanyang administration in the next 3 years po at importante po sa kanya itong agriculture. Ayoko po i-preempt si Pangulo," Go said. 

([Piñol] thinks he won't be of help anymore. You know, President Duterte is very sensitive about this position, especially since the legacy of his administration in the next 3 years depends on [what happens in] the agriculture sector. I don't want to preempt the President.)

Should his resignation be accepted by the President, Piñol requested that there be a one-month transition period for an "orderly turnover of all projects and programs" to his successor.

Prior to his resignation, Piñol had been criticized over the National Food Authority's continued rice shortage even after the agency was placed under his department, as well as the agriculture sector's poor performance since 2018.

More recently, he had to fend off allegations that he coerced the F/B Gem-Ver crew to change their statement on what had transpired when their boat was sunk by a Chinese vessel in the West Philippine Sea. The captain of the boat changed his tune after a closed-door meeting between the fishermen and Piñol in a house surrounded by cops.

The first public sign of presidential dissatisfaction was back in April when Duterte twitted Piñol for assuring him of 100% Philippine rice self-sufficiency, only for the country to experience a rice shortage.

"Tapos ito si Piñol bago pa kami.... Sabi niya, 'Mr President, I guarantee' – English spokening 'yan eh – 'that maybe if we can start immediately, at the end of this year, I can predict that we will even be a rice-exporting country,'" said Duterte on April 4 in Palawan.

(At the start.... Piñol said, "Mr President, I guarantee" – he's an English speaker – "that maybe if we can start immediately, at the end of this year, I can predict that we will even be a rice-exporting country.")

Finance Secretary Carlos Dominguez III supposedly then told Duterte that Piñol was just full of "hangin" or hot air and that self-sufficiency is "impossible." Piñol supposedly refuted this.

"'Sir, hindi, sir. Hindi, Mayor. Basta ako when I put my soul to task, focus ako diyan, believe me....' Eh di siyempre at the end of the year, may crisis," said Duterte.

("Sir, no, sir. No, Mayor. As long as I put my soul to task, focus on it, believe me...." By the end of the year, there was a crisis.) – with reports from Aika Rey, Pia Ranada, and Anna Mogato/Rappler.com