MANILA — Several experts, politicians, and taxpayers are voicing their concern about the Maharlika Investment Fund Act of 2023, with some critics planning to question its legality before the Supreme Court once it becomes a law.
The controversial bill, which is touted to help the country's economy, continues to rattle the nerves of those who see the measure as open to abuse and a possible burden to Filipinos.
According to Dr. Maria Fe Villamejor-Mendoza of the University of the Philippines National College of Public Administration and Governance (UP-NCPAG), there are concerns about Maharlika's source of funding given the fact that the government has no surplus money for it.
“Yung Maharlika Investment Fund at Maharlika Investment Corporation are touching on public money, at ang sabi nga ng ating Finance Secretary, it is investing our future. So kailangan meron tayong pakialam dun. Kasi pera natin at future natin yung at stake... madi-displace yung ating allocation for social services, for transport at kung ano-ano pa,” Villamejor-Mendoza argued.
Misplaced or displaced government allocations, according to Villamejor-Mendoza, means additional burden for the people.
“Kung kukunin yun, saan ang pagpupunan, anong source ang pagpupunan. So either magi-increase ng tax, or mangungutang tayo. Ang laki na ng utang natin, nasa P13T na ang utang natin. So, kung mangungutang tayo, lalaki pa yung utang. Yung future generation, kasama yun sa pagbabayad sa utang ng bansa,” the former UP-NCPAG dean, stressed.
On Thursday, talks about an impending Supreme Court petition questioning the legality of the Maharlika Investment Fund Act of 2023 bill started to circulate.
The Senate Minority bloc meanwhile, quickly supported the idea.
According to Senate Minority Leader Aquilino Pimentel III, having the government engage in business and compete with the private sector is against the Constitution.
Over at TeleRadyo Friday, Pimentel issued advice to President Ferdinand Marcos, Jr., to veto the Maharlika Fund bill.
“Sa dami po ng mali, tapos yung gusto ni President Marcos hindi rin naman nila binigay. Kasi ang nasa isip pala ni President Marcos ay yung mga funds katulad ng SSS, at GSIS ay pwedeng mag-invest pagkatapos ng initial capital, narinig ko sya eh,” Pimentel said.
“Siguro i-veto na lang nya (Marcos, Jr) yan para ibalik uli sa House (of Representatives) at saka sa Senate. At least binibigyan nya ng mas mahabang panahon na pag-aralan yang Maharlika Investment Fund,” he added.
Filomeno Sta Ana III of the Action For Economic Reforms (AER) meantime said even those who penned the Maharlika Fund bill are not certain about the exact purpose of the measure.
“Ang pinakamalaking problema po sa Maharlika Fund simula’t-sapul at hindi pa malinaw hanggang ngayon ay hindi pa malinaw kung anong konsepto sya… kung ang gagawin ba nya ay magi-invest ng pondo ng Republika ng Pilipinas para lumago, o isa itong pondo para gamitin para mag-pinansya ng development tulad ng infrastructure,” Sta Ana told Teleradyo’s “Kabayan” program.
THE MIF BILL AND ITS SAFEGUARDS
The MIF bill will also give birth to the Maharlika Investment Corporation which will manage the P500B fund.
In the bill, only 25 percent of the Land Bank of the Philippines, Development Bank of the Philippines, and other Government Financial Institutions can be sourced by the MIC.
Excluded are the Social Security System, Government Service Insurance System (GSIS), Philippine Insurance Health Corporation (PhilHealth), Home Development Mutual Fund (PAG-IBIG), Overseas Workers Welfare Administration (OWWA), and Philippine Veterans Affairs Office.
Those who will occupy the MIC board of directors will be vetted.
Section 53 of the bill also gives the MIC a 35-year lifespan which can be shortened or extended by Congress.
The MIC is also covered by a mandatory special audit every five years, and will be monitored by the MIF Joint Congressional Oversight Committee.
Meanwhile, the Governance Commission for GOCCs must have clearance before any GOCC can put money into the MIF.
All its projects must be posted on its official website, and any additional fund requirements must be approved by Congress.
The bill meantime states that MIC bonds will not be guaranteed by the Philippine government.
But amid all these so-called safeguards, ordinary taxpayers said they also have a lot to say about the Maharlika Fund bill.
“Hindi lang buhay ko, kundi kaapu-apuhan ko. Kasi pagdating kasi sa pera, magbabago ang lahat eh... wala akong nakikitang ikauunlad ko dyan, kung meron man tayong pakinabang, kakarampot lang yan,” 65-year old George Mante said.
“Hindi rin isusulong sa Kongreso po yan (bill) kung hindi magiging produktibo. Peo kung ang pagkukuhanan po ng pondo ay yung budget ng mga tao, katulad nung sa SSS, siguro maraming usapin pa po kasi marami pong Pilipino ang wala pa talagang trabaho,” 24-year old employee Jhon Rey Hermo said.
While 25-year old employee Denver Bambilla said: “Hindi po ako pabor kasi marami pang pagpondohan yung pera ng Pilipino para sa ikakagaan ng buhay ng mga Pilipinong nagbubuwis buwan-buwan para sa kanilang kinabukasan. Kasi trial and error yung gagawin nila eh. Kung sakaling gumana mas maganda, pero kung sakaling hindi umunlad, papano nila babayaran?”
For Albay Congressman Edcel Lagman, any Supreme Court petition against the Maharlika Fund bill must be solidified first.