Ilocos Norte Rep. Ferdinand Alexander Sandro Marcos said Monday that while the Maharlika Wealth Fund is his father President Ferdinand Marcos, Jr.'s initiative, the idea of a sovereign wealth fund was first made by former Senator Bam Aquino and Senator JV Ejercito in a previous Congress.
Marcos, the Presidential son and House Senior Deputy Majority Leader, broke his silence on the bill which he co-authored with his uncle, House Speaker Martin Romualdez.
"If you think about it this isn't a new idea. Sec. Diokno already said they were looking at it during the time of Duterte. If I'm not mistaken former Senator Bam Aquino filed a bill in 2016 trying to do the same thing. I guess, my guess is because di naipasa dahil patapos na ang administrasyon ni former President PNoy I believe Senator JV also nagfile ng bill, it's not a new idea.," he said.
The Marcoses and the Aquinos have long history of political rivalry that goes all the way back to the 1960s, when former Senator Ninoy Aquino and the then-President Ferdinand Marcos Sr. belonged to rival political camps. Aquino was assassinated during Marcos Sr.'s regime.
Bam Aquino is a nephew of the late democracy icon and is a cousin of the late President Noynoy Aquino.
The younger Marcos' comments were also shared by former President now Senior Deputy Speaker Gloria Macapagal Arroyo, who also endorsed the sovereign wealth fund proposal.
"Sovereign wealth funds are not new. Singapore, for example, has had Temasek Holdings since 1974 and the Government of Singapore Investment Corporation since 1981. There are more than 20 sovereign wealth funds in the Middle East. Even in the Philippines, the idea is not new – then Senator Paolo Benigno 'Bam' Aquino filed a bill to create such a fund in 2016," Arroyo said in a statement.
In a separate statement, former senator Aquino said he did file a sovereign wealth find bill in 2016, adding that the existence of such fund is common all around the world.
He, however, questioned the timing of the creation of the Maharlika Wealth Fund, considering the current economic situation of the country.
"Pero ang tanong, tama ba ang timing?... Una, ibang iba ang ekonomiya noong 2016 at ngayon - maganda ang takbo ng ekonomiya, mataas ang economic growth, mababa ang utang ng gobyerno, at mababa rin ang inflation," " Aquino said.
"Ngayon, bumagal ang ekonomiya dahil sa pandemya, at mataas ang presyo ng bilihin," he added.
Aquino also said surplus budget is often used in sovereign wealth funds.
"Pangalawa, ang ginagamit na pondo para sa isang sovereign wealth fund ay karaniwang surplus o sobra ng budget dahil may posibilidad na malugi ang isang sovereign wealth fund. Klaro na hindi dapat galing sa mga pensyon ng mga manggagawa ang mga pinagkukuhanan nito," he added.
The younger Marcos and Arroyo said that having the President of the Philippines lead the fund won't be a hindrance to insulating its management from politics.
"The President is also chief of, he's also head of the board of NEDA which is in charge of the economic development of our country so it's not much different. There are so many safeguards if you look at the bill and actually Cong. Joey and the TWG on the congressional side, may exemptions naman from the GOCC and the PCC that's already not the case, we already took that out. And if you look we will be making sure that there will be proper representation in the board especially from the corporations from which these funds will be taken from. Now like I said there are 3 auditors, there will be an internal auditor, external auditor and COA. That's 3 layers of safeguards. Kumbaga may namatay na tao may 3 , there are 3 coroners checking the dead body," Marcos said.
"Like I said I think part of the reason is that of course its been politicized but the whole point of this exercise is that this corporation will be free from politics. That’s why it needs to be run by technocrats, wala silang interesado sa politika. Yes, the president will be the chairman of the board. But you have to look at it beyond this administration. This isn’t something for the next six years. This is something that can keep on going if you look at the success of what these sovereign wealth funds have done, you cannot dispute naman. Look at Indonesia, one year pa lang silang nakatayo, ang laki na ng kita ng sovereign wealth fund nila. Temasek," Marcos added.
"The success of any fund, sovereign or private, lies in the quality of its management. In the current version of the Maharlika Wealth Fund, the President of the Philippines chairs its governing Board. This is a powerful statement that the highest official of the land will hold himself as ultimately accountable to the Filipino people for the performance of the Fund," Arroyo said.
Marcos and Arroyo said that the fund won't involve the pensions of state pension fund members. The proposed Maharlika Wealth Fund seeks to source capital from the Government Service Insurance System and Social Security System, among others.
"Lahat ng mga proyekto na nakukulangan ng pondo doon natin makukuha sa kita ng sovereign wealth fund. Now there ang mga sinasabi ng tao na it could be taken from the pension money the GSIS and all these corporations already have investible funds. Hindi po galing sa pension, hindi po it will be taken from the investible funds that are already there. Those corporations already invest into real and financial assets through those investible funds they do not use the pension money," Marcos said.
Marcos also addressed reservations raised by his aunt, Senator Imee Marcos.
"I was just talking to her now. I think it's good that she has reservations about the bill because it makes sure that the legislature is more robust. It ensures that the safeguards that she was so worried about are actually put up and that there are layers of checks and balances that ensure that the money is going in the right place," Marcos said.
Marcos believes now is a good time to pursue the creation of this fund.
"The Maharlika investment fund is geared towards contributing to national development," Marcos added.
"So you know, if you ask, when will it be the right time, or it’s not the right time now, kung ganoon ang mindset, it will never be the right time. So we have to make sure, the interest of national development that we are doing everything that we can," he added.
Marcos said he is ready to defend the bill during plenary deliberations.
He also denied that the bill is being railroaded.
For Senator Bong Go, it all comes down to who will manage the fund.
"Siguro mahabang usapan 'yan, mahabang debate ang Maharlika Fund. Ang importante po dito ang tanong is who will manage sino poi magdadala it should be a good manager talaga na walang masasayang na pondo," Go said.
Senator JV Ejercito, meanwhile, seeks safeguards and urged caution.
"Any funds of this magnitude has to be studied very carefully. Maganda naman ang intensyon pero if we intend to use or source the funds from GSIS,SSS we have to be extra careful because these are pension funds of government and private employees. Siguro marami lang merong agam- agam diyan dahil because of the past, AFPSLAI and then RSBS of which they funds were invested in bad investments," Ejercito said.