As a former professional journalist, I have always respected the editorial independence of media outfits covering the Department of Agriculture which I now head as Secretary-designate.
I consider myself "fair game" to the media being a public official who must be transparent and accountable to the public.
But early today, a story which was posted on Inquirer.Net which I understand is the main story of the Business Page of the Philippine Daily Inquirer, really got to my nerve because of how it was slanted by reporter Ronnel Domingo.
"Emmanuel F. Piñol said he expected to be reappointed agriculture secretary after the Commission on Appointments (CA) bypassed him earlier this month, saying that his “personal friend” President Duterte told him so."
This was the lead paragraph of a story "Piñol Crafts Masaganang Ani Project" making it totally unrelated to the title of the news item.
In fact, the reference to the Masaganang Ani Project was in the last paragraph of the five paragraph story and was treated in a "by the way" manner.
"Also, the agriculture chief said he was crafting a new flagship project dubbed Masaganang Ani 6000, which is aimed at raising the productivity of one million hectares of irrigated rice farms to 6 tons per hectare per crop cycle, mainly by providing farmers with inputs like seeds and irrigation."
What was reprehensible in the way the reporter wrote the story was his use of the phrase "personal friend" to make it appear that it was the reason why I was confident of being reappointed by President Rody Duterte as Agriculture Secretary.
The transcripts of the press conference yesterday will prove that I used the phrase "personal friend" to refer to my relationship with President Duterte when I was talking about corruption in the Department of Agriculture.
I stated during the press conference that I cannot be involved in corruption not only because it is against the law but mainly because as a "personal friend" of the President, it would be an act of betrayal of his friendship.
"I have an added load on my shoulder in the campaign against corruption in the Department of Agriculture and that is my personal friendship with the President. I will betray him if I get involved in corruption," was essentially what I said.
In fact, I also related during the press conference that I have personally talked to the other DA officials who are working with me now that "we should live Spartan lives" and be contented with what we receive as salaries.
By misusing the phrase "personal friend" in the context of the President's assurance that he would reappoint me as Secretary of Agriculture, Inquirer reporter Ronnel Domingo showed his bias if not incompetence as a reporter.
A respected paper like the Philippine Daily Inquirer which pays its reporters and writers well does not deserve an incompetent and lousy reporter.
The Agriculture beat is not as exciting as the Police, Congress, Senate or Malacañang beats and I can understand the lack of focus and importance mainstream media provide.
But as a major agency of government, I believe the Agriculture Department deserves to be covered by a writer who understands agriculture and fisheries, not somebody who spreads gossips and intrigues.
Minsan lang kayo sumulat tungkol sa Agrikultura, basura pa!