Progressive groups oppose creation of Maharlika Wealth Fund

Progressive groups in Panay oppose the current administration’s plan to create a sovereign wealth fund.

By John Noel E. Herrera

Some progressive groups in Panay opposed the current administration’s plan to create a sovereign wealth fund, claiming that it is another ploy for corruption.

Bayan Panay spokesperson Bryan Bosque said in a press conference that contributions of members of the Social Security System (SSS) and Government Service Insurance System (GSIS) will be put at risk if they are invested in the Maharlika Wealth Fund (MWF).

“May form of resistance sa public kag aton gid ginapamatukan ang pagduso sining Maharlika Wealth Fund. Nagapangabudlay sila (public) para nga may retirement fund sila tapos gulpyada kuhaon, so hindi makatarungan,” Bosque said.

MWF’s initial investment of P250 billion will be drawn from the GSIS (P125 billion), SSS (P50 billion), the Land Bank of the Philippines (P50 billion), and the Development Bank of the Philippines (P25 billion).

Bayan Panay added that the motive behind the creation of the investment fund is suspicious, citing some exemptions in the latest draft of proposed HB 6398 or the Maharlika Investments Fund Act.

“Hindi na ko magpaligoy pa kay ini (MWF) ‘corruptable’ funds ini, kag based man sa mga kongresista from Makabayan, ang draft sang layi, gina-pangitaan gid sang lusot nga eventually kung ano matabo, hindi maging accountable ang mga officials nga involve diri, especially nga presidente ang maging chairman sini. Ginapangitaan sang lusot nga ano man matabo sa pondo, wala sila sang liability,” Bosque said.

The latest draft of HB 6398 also suggests exempting the MWF and its managing government corporation from the following laws: the GOCC Governance Act of 2011 (Optional for the Founding GFIs); the Civil Service Law; the Salary Standardization Act; the Government Procurement Act (RA 9184); and the Competition Law (RA 10667).

It will also be exempted from taxes and rules on the disposal of assets and the review of contracts by the Office of the Government Corporate Counsel.

Bosque also urged local legislators in Panay to take action on it and be with their people as it is the public’s money that will be at risk with the creation of the MWF.

“We also put pressure man sa mga local legislators sa Panay nga kung tani atubangon man kay may mga constituents sila nga contributors sang mga government financial institutions. So ang challenge ginapalab-ot man namon sa local officials kay sila magaboto sini, so mapamatud-an subong sang sining mga kongresista naton kung para gid man sila sa mga pumuluyo basi sa votes nila,” he said.

Bayan Panay together with Gabriela, KADAMAY, PAMANGAS, Kabataan Partylist, and Anakbayan is also set to release petition papers to campaign against the creation of the investment funds.

“May i-pagwa kami nga petition, i-work out na namon today mapagwa namon, i-campaign man sa students sa mga schools, sa mga mangunguma, including the church and human rights organization, so strong gid ang aton oposition,” Gabriela regional spokesperson Lucy Francisco said.

The group also emphasized that it is ironic that GSIS and the SSS are willing to pour in resources to MWF while refusing to grant additional benefits to its pensioners.

“Sa subong may mga deficit gani ang ini nga agencies, P6.3 billion for SSS and P3 billion for GSIS according to IBON Foundation data, and sa subong gani gina-gipit ang aton retirees, tapos mapagwa pa sila sang dugang nga funds,” the group added.

Meanwhile, several economists also expressed caution about the MWF, knowing the history of corruption scandals surrounding government-managed funds.

“The Philippines has had a history of funds mismanagement and scandals: Coco Levy, PhilHealth scandal, and SSS fund being used for politically-tainted stock purchases. We have a lot of competent finance professionals, but they cannot do much if the fund governance structure itself is politically-tainted,” UP-Los Baños Economics lecturer Enrico Villanueva said in an article published by Rappler.

House Bill No. 6398 or the creation of MWF was filed by lawmakers led by House Speaker Martin Romualdez which aims to “improve investment opportunities, promote productivity-enhancing investments, and ensure that the Philippines becomes an investment destination.”

Romualdez also said that the MWF could be used to manage the country’s foreign reserves, as well as to create more jobs for Filipinos.

The bill was also speedily approved by the House banks committee on Thursday, and several lawmakers are pushing the bill to be approved by December 12, 2022.

Some senators, however, questioned why proponents are rushing for the approval of the proposed wealth fund when the senate has not yet studied it well.

“We must first ensure the sovereign wealth fund is necessary and if so, we need to ensure that it is managed properly and the safeguards are in place so that it would not be misused or prone to corruption,” Senate President Juan Miguel Zubiri said in an interview.

The senate will also form a group, which will include senators Sonny Angara, Win Gatchalian, Grace Poe, Mark Villar, and Alan Peter Cayetano, “to study the proposal carefully and give the Senate feedback on the essence of the Fund.”