MANILA — Economist Winnie Monsod on Wednesday said the passage of the controversial Maharlika Investment Fund in the Senate was a "political move."
The proposed measure in the Senate was certified as urgent by President Ferdinand Marcos Jr. Nineteen senators voted in favor of the bill. Opposition Sen. Risa Hontiveros voted against it, while Sen. Nancy Binay abstained.
"This is a strictly political move, not an economic move, on the part of the senators," said Monsod, a former chief of the National Economic and Development Authority (NEDA).
"They passed it in such a hurry... the public never had a chance to look at it. And that scares me," she told ANC's "Headstart."
The Senate version of the Maharlika bill banned state-run pension funds such as the Government Service Insurance System (GSIS) and the Social Security System (SSS), as well as PhilHealth, Pag-IBIG, Overseas Workers Welfare Administration, and the Philippine Veterans Affairs Office from investing in the fund.
Its funding sources instead include the Landbank of the Philippines, the Development Bank of the Philippines, privatization proceeds, the Philippine Amusement and Gaming Corporation, and Bangko Sentral ng Pilipinas dividends, the Department of Budget and Management (DBM) said.
Monsod was not convinced that Maharlika is a sovereign wealth fund, saying, "I cannot see that it comes from government surpluses because we have no government surplus."
Despite safeguards, she expressed concern about the measure.
"I'm worried what is going to happen to the Philippines as a result of that fund. That fund can go the good way, but it can also go the Malaysian way where the fund was destroyed," said Monsod.
"Our government officials are so good at getting around things. I'm truly afraid."
WHAT SENATE LEADER, ECONOMIC TEAM SAY
Senate President Juan Miguel Zubiri said the Maharlika fund would be used for infrastructure projects and other programs that could drive economic growth.
"Dahil pera ito ng taumbayan, sinala nating mabuti ang panukala, para siguradong protektado ang inyong pondo laban sa investment losses o sa korapsyon," the lawmaker said on Facebook.
"At bantay-sarado po ang MIF ng Commission on Audit, ng Joint Congressional Oversight Committee, at ng Internal at External Auditors—kaya mahigpit po talaga ang galaw ng pera dito," he added.
(Because these are public funds, we scrutinized the bill thoroughly, so that your funds could be protected against investment losses or corruption. The Commission on Audit, Joint Congressional Oversight Committee, and Internal and External Auditors would closely guard the movement of the money here.)
Marcos' economic team commends the Senate "for their thorough deliberation and prioritization of the proposed Maharlika Investment Fund Act," Finance Secretary Benjamin Diokno said.
Budget Secretary Amenah Pangandaman said the government ensured that the bill is now "more acceptable."
“Napakadami nang safeguards— we have an audit committee, there’s an advisory board, and there’s a Congressional oversight committee. It adheres to the internationally-known Santiago principles, may COA (Commission on Audit) rin siya, may procurement law din po siya, so I think we have enough safeguards,” Pangandaman said.
The bill will be taken up by the bicameral conference committee on May 31 and is up for ratification on the same day, the DBM said.