On wild allegations of bribery and intimidation proliferating on social media, DA Secretary Manny Piñol remarked he was amazed how far critics of this administration would go, like weave incredible tales just to discredit the President.
The hardworking Secretary answered the allegations one by one and even dared the reporters, the critics to pay Capt. Junel Insigne and his crew a visit and ask them once again about their story in his absence and without the police around.
You may start reading the DA Sec’s official reply on FB.
Statement of DA Sec. Manny Piñol
On Alleged Bribery and Intimidation
Shortly after I visited San Jose, Occidental Mindoro yesterday, June 19, where I met with the owner and the 22 crew members of F/B GEM-VER which figured in a maritime incident in Recto Bank June 10, accusations that I bribed and intimidated the fishermen into changing their narratives were posted in the social media.
Critics of the administration were apparently incensed that after my short conversation with the owner and the fishermen, the public now has a clearer picture of what actually happened thus effectively preventing them from exploiting the crisis.
The fishermen were also happy with the immediate interventions provided by government and perhaps this was also another reason why the critics of President Rody Duterte are fuming mad because they have lost their intended props in their villification campaign against the administration.
For the record, let me address the accusations:
1. Secretary Piñol intimidated the fishermen into changing their narratives of the incident by cornering them in a Closed-Door-Meeting.
Answer: The meeting with the boat owner, Arlinda dela Torre, and the 22 fishermen was held in the small living room of Dela Torre’s house. There was barely enough space for everybody so that the fishermen sat in the sofa and the floor while BFAR Undersecretary Eduardo Gongona, DSWD Undersecretary Aimee Neri and DOE Secretary Alexander Lopez just stood behind me. The photos shown here will prove this. It was during the meeting where I told the fishermen of the assistance that they will get from government and that the govt will help them get justice. It was also in the same meeting where I asked Captain Junel Insigne whether he was really invited to Malacanang to meet with Pres. Duterte. It was then when it became clear that there was really no invitation and Insigne said he wanted to apologize to the President.The meeting lasted only about 25 minutes.
2. On accusations the assistance given to them was a bribe for them to change their narratives on the incident.
The assistance given to them was part of existing institutional programs of the DA. The fiberglass boats are given to poor fishermen all over the country. The DA-BFAR has already given out thousands of these boats which the fishermen themselves fabricate. The No-Interest, No-Collateral Survival and Recovery loan of P25,000 each is an existing program to assist farmers and fishermen whose livelihood is affected by calamities. The DSWD assistance is part of their program too while the financial help from Sec. Al Cusi was granted in his capacity as the Cabinet Officer for the Region. If critics are looking at these as bribes, what would they accuse government of if the fishermen did not get any help from government?
3. On accusations that the fishermen changed their narratives after I talked to them.
Answer: There was no change in their narratives. There are those among them who believe that the ramming was intentional while there are those who believe that it could have been accidental. This is why they are one in asking for an impartial maritime inquiry. The only story that changed was that of Captain Insigne who earlier claimed he was summoned to Malacanang to meet with the President, a claim which has been proven false.
4. On the claim that the policemen deployed in the area during my presence was part of the intimidation of the fishermen.
Answer: I never asked for the deployment of the policemen. I didn’t need them. In fact, i was not even aware of their presence. I travel without a police security officer, just two civilian aides who are both unarmed.
To check whether there was really intimidation, those who believe so could jiust talk to the fishermen now. There are no policemen guarding them now and I am no longer in the area to “tutor” them on what to say.
I did my task as the Cabinet Officer assigned to look after the needs of the fishermen and the boat owner.
This assignment has been accomplished so people will not hear anything from me anymore on this issue.
In closing, let me just express my amazement at how far critics of this administration could go, what incredible tales they could weave just to discredit the President.
Unfortunately for them, the truth will always prevail and lies will be proven a lie by another lie.
(The first photo showing Capt Insigne and several fishermen doing the Duterte fistpump was taken after they asked me to join them in the picture taking. The other photos show the cramped sala of the Dela Torre home where I met with the fishermen. Take note there were no policemen to intimidate them.)