Despite pension source removal, many still oppose Maharlika fund

Warren De Guzman, ABS-CBN News

Posted at Dec 08 2022 06:35 PM

MANILA - SSS member Gil Nartea said he is glad the funds of the Government Service Insurance System and the Social Security System will no longer be used as part of the seed money for the controversial Maharlika Investment Fund. 

But despite this, he said he is still against the passage of the proposal.

"Natuwa ako nang mawala ang GSIS at tsaka SSS. Kasi misis ko GSIS pensioner, ako SSS. Ngayon kung naisama yon at nalugi, paano kami? Matatanda na kami. Yun na lang ang inaasahan namin," Nartea told ABS-CBN News.

(“I was happy GSIS and SSS are no longer part of it. My wife is a GSIS pensioner, and I am with SSS. If their funds are included and the investment is a loser, what will happen to us? We are already old, we rely on our pensions.”)

“Sa kabuuan pa rin, kung tutuusin, ayoko na lahat yan maipasok at maipasa ang batas na iyan," he added)

(In total, I still don't want that to be passed into law)

He cited the lack of trust in the government as the reason as among the reasons for his apprehensions.

"Ang sinasabi kasi nila may batas naman na magaalaga diyan sa pera ng Maharlika Wealth Fund na yan ano? Marami na tayong nakasuhan na tao, mga politiko, lalo na mga politiko na na involve sa mga ganyan, scam, PDAF, pero nananalo pa rin sila. Hindi sila nakukulong. Makulong lang sandali, makakalabas tapos tatakbo, mananalo pa.”

(“They say there are laws in place to protect the money that will be invested into the Maharlika Wealth Fund. Well, there have been a lot of legal actions against people, politicians, especially politicians who get involved in these things, scams, PDAF (Priority Development Assistance Fund), but they still win. They are not jailed. Some may have been jailed, but only for a short time. They get out and run for office, and they still win.”)

Red flags on the Maharlika Investment Fund include the lack of regulation and risk management, transparency, and accountability, as well as the avoidance of conflict of interest, a group of economists and former officials said in a joint statement.

Signatories of the statement include UP Professor Emeritus Solita Collas-Monsod, former BSP Deputy Governor Diwa Guinigundo, former Finance Undersecretary Milwida Guevara, former NEDA Secretaries Cielito Habito and Dante Canlas, and UP School of Economics Professor Emeriti Dr. Maria Socorro Gochoco-Bautista and Dr. Emmanuel de Dios.

Filomeno Sta. Ana, co-founder and coordinator of the think tank Action for Economic Reforms and a signatory of that statement, shared that the last time he saw this many outspoken economists, academicians and the general public unite on an issue was in 2008 when the Philippines was gripped by the National Broadband Network or NBN-ZTE scam. 

“It is still an idea so wala namang corruption dyan ano. Pero nakikita ng madla, pati ng mga ekonomista at technocrats na yung mismong articulation ng bill ay hindi na maganda, and in fact, may likelihood na pag ganyang klaseng bill ay ipasa, it will only enable corruption and cronyism dahil kulang sa controls," Sta. Ana told ABS-CBN News. 

He added that everything the proposed bill wants to achieve, such as lending to infrastructure projects or investing in riskier but more rewarding financial assets, can already be achieved by the very institutions being compelled to contribute funds to Maharlika. 

Revising rules governing Landbank, Development Bank, the Philippine Central Bank, GSIS, and SSS, instead of creating a sovereign wealth fund, may do the job of getting better returns, Sta. Ana said.

Both Sta Ana and Nartea also note that the Maharlika Wealth Fund does not work like the sovereign wealth funds of other nations, because it is asking for money from institutions in need of more income instead of mobilizing wealth or surplus cash that would have otherwise been left unproductive.

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