[OPINION] Cynthia Villar: Champion of the 'personal interest first' policy

“Parang lahat ng inyong budget puro research? Baliw na baliw kayo sa research. Aanhin 'nyo ba 'yung research (It seems that all your budget is put into research? You're crazy about research. What will research do for you)?"

These words were from Senator Cynthia Villar – Senate committee chair on agriculture and food, agrarian reform, and environment and natural resources, as well as your top senator in the May 2019 elections – during the budget hearing of the Department of Agriculture. (READ: The rise of Cynthia Villar: How politics, money, networks made her No. 1)

Let me just air my disappointment as a researcher and as a son of a farmer. Hearing this statement is so painful. This remark from a public servant who proclaimed herself as intelligent will affect not just those within the Department of Agriculture, but all researchers out there who, at this moment, are pouring their heart and soul into their studies. 

Ako, matalino akong tao pero hindi ko maintindihan 'yung research 'nyo, lalo na 'yung farmer. Gusto ba ng farmer 'yung research? Hindi ba gusto nila tulungan 'nyo sila? Bakit ba lahat ng budget 'nyo research (I myself am an intelligent person, but I don't understand your research, what more a farmer. Do farmers want this research? Don't they want you to help them? Why does your budget go to research)?"

Research delivers outputs. Research delivers products. Research, the paper and the process, is not directly being handed from the laboratory or the office out to the fields. It is interpreted, then products may materialize from that research.

“Kung ako farmer, mas gusto ko nang bigyan ako ng seeds, bigyan ako ng machineries kaysa 'yung mga kung anu-ano (If I were a farmer, I would rather be given seeds and machinery than what-have-you)."

If Senator Villar cannot see the importance of well-funded research, then I guess she should first know the basics of science, technology, development, and advancement. It is not only about providing seeds and machinery to farmers; it is about developing better technology, giving them better seeds and modern machinery. That is the aim of research. And developing something better for the country and the people is not easy, nor cheap. I hope the senator knows that, being intelligent (or so she says). 

The farming industry has already benefited from research in the past years: new breeds of palay and other crops, new equipment, new methods. In general, research is about creating something new, something better. This involves time and effort and investment and dedication. Those are at the core of research, and mind you, Ma’am, they do not come cheap. (READ: [ANALYSIS] Plummeting rice prices: How will our rice farmers cope?)

The farmers are angry not because of research. They are actually voicing out their frustrations about you, Madam Senator, and your selfish ways. From authoring the Rice Tarrification Law, whose effects now impair the lives of fellow Filipinos reliant on farming, to cutting the budget of an institution that focuses on upgrading the products and tools for the agriculture industry, you are just showing your true colors. You really do not care about the welfare of farmers and all those who rely on agriculture. Your conflict of interest radiates so much that you have forgotten your role as a public servant. You are serving yourself and you will always serve yourself. (READ: Cynthia Villar slammed over business interests anew)

How I wish that in the future, the Senate may have a more strict way of selecting chairpersons for committees. Put someone in the agricultural committee who does not forget that their service is for the country and the people, someone who is truly an advocate and champion of agriculture, and most importantly, someone who is not in the business of real estate. – Rappler.com

Raymark Paul Trojillo Rigor, 22, is from Tarlac and finished his Bachelor's Degree in Biology at the Central Luzon State University in Nueva Ecija.

Paul is a youth leader, advocating for the attainment of Sustainable Development Goals, environmental and wildlife conservation, youth empowerment, and community building.