‘Maharlika’ could be BBM’s waterloo

By Herbert Vego

YES, there was an overwhelming majority of 279 solons who railroaded the Maharlika investment bill in the House, but it’s the “fantastic six” now reaping public accolade for resisting the whim of the President of the Philippines.

Kudos to these six, namely Representatives Edcel Lagman, France Castro, Mujiv Hataman, Gabriel Bordado Jr., Arlene Brosas. and Raoul Manuel for voting against House Bill 6608 creating the Maharlika Investment Fund (MIF). None of them comes from our region.

Expect the Senate version to breeze through also because most senators are also beholden to President Ferdinand “Bongbong” Marcos Jr. (BBM).

Since the idea behind the bill originated from Marcos himself, he is obviously becoming another Digong Duterte whose wish was Congress’ command.  Are we seeing another Marcos dictator in the making?

Sane minds naturally fear that the proposed Php 250 billion “investment fund” is just another term for what used to be known as the “sovereign wealth fund” which was widely criticized for including the Government Service Insurance System (GSIS), Social Security System (SSS), and the Home Development Mutual Fund as among its sources of funds.

While these pension plans have already been excluded in a futile attempt to appease public opinion, let us not be fooled. Funding would still be sourced from taxpayers’ money deposited in government banks like the Landbank of the Philippines and Development Bank of the Philippines, plus assistance from the Bangko Sentral ng Pilipinas and the Department of Finance.

Assuming the bill ripens into law, what for?

The proposed fund — authored by presidential cousin Speaker Ferdinand Martin Romualdez, his wife Yedda Romualdez, and presidential son Senior Deputy Majority Leader Sandro Marcos, among others — is tantamount to gambling through a wide range of unidentified outlets such as foreign currencies, fixed-income instruments, domestic and foreign corporate bonds, commercial real estate, and infrastructure projects, among others.

Considering the collapse of similar ventures in richer countries – say Norway, which lost $174 billion in the first half of 2022 — it could rob us taxpayers of hard-earned, banked money.  It could mire our government in heavy debt.

Our foreign and domestic debts have ballooned to ₱13.6 trillion. It had more than doubled the ₱5.94 trillion incurred prior to the election of President Rodrigo Duterte in 2016.

Utang pa uli? Nakakatakot.

To former Supreme Court Associate Antonio Carpio, the fund would be unconstitutional because we have no surplus money; and the BSP is an independent entity that could not be dictated upon by the President and the legislature.

Just because BBM is falsely “advertised” as enjoying 85% trust rating does not make it legal. It would exacerbate doubts on the legitimacy of the familiar number “31-M”.

But of course, as in any other government investment, the fund would enrich non-investing individuals who would constitute its officials led by a 15-man board of directors.

It’s hard to imagine BBM and his sycophants in Congress not sharing the loot.

Ang suwerte nila ano?



THE Department of Public Works (DPWH) and contractor International Builders Corp (IBC) have yet to fully disclose the reasons behind the “sinking” of the Ungka II flyover in Pavia, Iloilo. This corner learned that both parties have reached a verbal agreement on how to address the issue that has disabled the bridge, thus causing bottle-neck traffic on the ground.

The written report revealed a meeting among DPWH Secretary Manuel Bonoan, DPWH Region 6 officials and an unidentified representative of IBC in Manila.

The new flyover had been in use for only a few days when motorists complained of “wavy” runs on the bridge. It turned out that one of the pillars was gradually sinking at the underlying base day by day.

The following are excerpts from the report released to the Iloilo media:

“During the meeting, DPWH Secretary Bonoan committed to fast track the recommendation for engineering intervention by sending a technical working group from DPWH Bureau of Design to Iloilo City Ungka Flyover.

“The parties agreed to wait for the results of the audit being conducted by a team that arrived this week from the DPWH Central Office to perform a comprehensive assessment of the situation of the said flyover.

“The safety of the riding and driving public has always been our priority all these years,” they added.”



IN a thanksgiving dinner with the media, MORE Power President Roel Z. Castro expressed his reaction to customers bashing the distribution utility for whatever reasons, whether real or imagined.

“We can’t please everybody,” he quipped, “but we can say, ‘Please. Please understand.’”

As the power-distribution utility in Iloilo City, MORE Power has been criticized for raising rates despite the fact that it’s due to the sudden increase in the prices of coal fuel in the world market from US $60 to $400 per metric ton.

Like ILECO and other distribution utilities, MORE Power gets only a small percentage of the amount printed in the bill.  Much of it is passed on to generating units, the National Grid Corporation of the Philippines and government taxes.

Some of us tend to forget the 14 straight months when MORE Power was charging the lowest rates in the Philippines after inking a very favorable contract with a geothermal power plant.

Geothermal energy, however, has become so in demand that it is no longer sufficient to fill the national demand. Therefore, distribution utilities have to depend on the more expensive coal-fired and diesel-fed power plants to keep customers energized.