If the word “bukbok” (weevil) has permeated national consciousness recently, we only have Agriculture Secretary Emmanuel Piñol to thank for it. The Department of Agriculture honcho has lately hogged the headlines for eating bukbok-infested rice, declaring that it is not harmful to human health and thus there is nothing wrong with it.
Piñol is right — weevils are not harmful to human health. But his conclusion that there is nothing wrong with weevil or
bukbok-infested rice is seriously flawed.
He fails to understand the nature of weevils as pests. Weevils feed on good grains, not on already decaying ones. They lay tiny eggs inside grains, so even if we wash the infested grains with water to kill them, the tiny eggs that remain hidden inside the grains will soon hatch to start another generation of weevils, slowly devouring the remaining good grains. It is a process that repeats itself for as long as there are good grains available that are not kept safe in airtight containers.
Wood weevils are no exception; they eat up tiny parcels of good wood that are used for house posts, especially those without any antipest treatment. If left unchecked, weevils can topple down posts and, eventually, entire houses.
Grain and wood weevils can be exterminated through chemical treatment. Unfortunately, the political weevils in our government structure are hard to extirpate.
Political weevils are resident evils. They have not only eaten up the core pillars of good governance; through atrocious actions defying the rule of law, they have also corroded the basic foundations of public administration.
Aside from the agriculture secretary, other political weevils have also slowly degraded decades-old democratic structures that guarantee checks and balances in the three coequal branches of government. For example, no one, not even the president, can order warrantless arrests of individuals; neither can a sitting president dictate who will replace him when he deems he cannot fulfill his executive duties anymore. There are provisions in our basic law guaranteeing due process in any governmental transaction. These core principles are embedded in our democratic and good governance pillars.
Alas, these are slowly being eroded by a bukbok style of governance. And these human bukbok are here to stay until the next presidential election is held—if this hallowed democratic exercise will not be thwarted by even more destructive political weevils that threaten to wipe out whatever good is left in our country’s governance structures.
By the way, promoting the consumption of weevil-infested rice is unbecoming of the top official of a department that is supposed to provide strategic directions for the country’s food security. It is one of many pathetic consequences of political horse-trading, where sycophants are catapulted into positions of power in government even if their major qualification is that they are vociferous defenders of
Impoverished communities in Zamboanga and the island provinces of Tawi-Tawi, Sulu and Basilan are among those that have been hit hardest by the rice crisis. Clearly, the agriculture chief has not provided the needed rational and strategic directions for rice production in this country, which used to be the center of rice production through the International Rice Research Institute (Irri).
And, due to a lack of deep understanding of the problems facing the rice industry, the agriculture secretary proposes
instead the legalization of rice smuggling — from countries like Vietnam and Thailand whose farmers were trained in
Irri several decades ago.
Is this the best solution to the rice crisis, Mr. Secretary?
Nakakabulok din ang bukbok, Secretary Piñol. And I mean it in the Tagalog sense, not in Visayan.
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