By LIA MERCADO
MANILA – Progressives assailed the controversial Maharlika Wealth Fund, saying that concentrating funds in the hands of very few ruling few is prone to corruption and abuse.
“Its very name makes it clear who the Maharlika Funds are for – the rulers in power who are running it themselves,” said Anakpawis Party-list said in a statement.
Reports of the proposed P250 billion ($4.4 billion) Maharlika Wealth Fund reveal that at least P125 billion ($2.2 billion) will be sourced from the Government Service Insurance System (GSIS), P50 billion ($890,000) each from the Social Security System (SSS) and Land Bank of the Philippines, and P25 billion ($450,000) each from the Development Bank of the Philippines (DBP) and the Philippine Treasury.
Another P25 billion will come from the national government budget for a total of P275 billion ($4.9 billion).
According to House Speaker Martin Romualdez, a relative of Marcos Jr. and author of the bill, the Maharlika Wealth Fund will provide great value not only to the participating Government Financial Institutions (GFI) but will also bring direct investment and employment.
But in an earlier statement, progressive group Bayan said these GFIs are already doing this and that “there is no need to create another government entity to do the same thing.”
“The problem is not only what if the investment loses? The problem is the gall and shamelessness in proposing to legislate the use and risk of scarce people’s money specifically meant for private and public sector workers welfare, farmers land reform and agricultural development, national industry development and emergency social welfare needs,” said Santiago Dasmariñas Jr., national president of government union Courage.
Misplaced, unsettling priority
Pamalakaya shared the distress of public employees and pension contributors whose pension funds and social benefits would be at risk for corruption without stringent safeguard measures and accountability.
“The people simply and obviously do not trust the proponents of this Fund who have records of graft and corruption. In the midst of the burdening inflation wherein the marginalized sectors clamor for wage hike and benefits, sufficient subsidies, and accessible social services, the Maharlika Wealth Fund is a misplaced, let alone unsettling, priority.”
The group added that they suggest the government just focus on rolling out subsidies to marginalized sectors including fisherfolk, who have been reeling from the staggering prices of basic goods and petroleum products, that consequently jack up their production costs.
Anakpawis echoed the woes of Pamalakaya and said the proposal is extremely worrying where hundreds of billions of pesos will be concentrated to supposedly create additional income for the country, “while basic services such as education, health, infrastructure, and aid for the poor remain insufficient.”
“It’s really a shame, people don’t cower from stealing people’s money anymore. The money that the people worked hard for, deducted from the meager wages of the workers, only to be taken by the Marcos Jr. government,” Gabriela Deputy Secretary General for Internal Affairs Rose Bihag said in a statement, adding that the welfare of the people should be prioritized by the Marcos Jr. administration instead of “a Maharlika Wealth Fund that seems like rubbing salt on wounded people.”
According to Ibon Foundation, the fund’s Board and personnel are given too much license to give themselves compensation even if the fund fails as the law sought exemptions from the Salary Standardiazation Act and Civil Service Law (Article VII, Section 27).
“As it is, the presidents of the GFIs who will sit on the Board already earn as much as P12 million ($210,000) (DBP) and P16 million ($290,000) (GSIS) annually,” said Ibon Foundation.
Under the Maharlika Wealth Fund Act, the fund will be managed by a 15-member board, two of which will come from the private sector.
“There is no guarantee that they will be properly managed, nor are we sure if there will really be no corruption, especially since most of those who propose our laws are also businessmen within the congress,” added Bihag.
Ibon Foundation added that the administration’s oligarchic supporters can gain from the fund as they are allowed to invest in domestic corporate bonds, listed or unlisted equities, joint ventures and co-investments, and commercial real estate and infrastructure projects (Article IV, Section 11).
“It should be conspicuous that three of the country’s richest Filipinos are also behind three of the country’s five largest political parties – controlling one-third of the Senate, House of Representatives, and governorships – and are heavily invested in real estate and construction,” explained the thinktank.
Anakpawis added that “the people simply and obviously do not trust the proponents of this Fund who have records of graft and corruption.”
Bayan, on the other hand, said the proposed Maharlika Wealth Fund, is “among the worst forms of bureaucrat capitalism, where government officials use their positions to amass wealth and power for themselves, their relatives, cronies, and business partners.”
“This dubious wealth fund deserves round-the-clock scrutiny from the public and independent watchdogs,” said Pamalakaya National Chairperson Fernando Hicap. “We vow that the fishing sector won’t be complacent with this new scheme of plunder of our hard-earned contributed taxes.”
Similarly, Anakpawis stated, “We will not be reassured by this bill and we will strictly guard the public treasury against any attempt to turn it into a well of corruption by untrustworthy politicians like the Marcos clan and their allies.”
Meanwhile, Gabriela reminded concerned citizens to never allow their hard-earned money in SSS and GSIS, “to be squandered by a corrupt government and its accomplices in business.”
The Alliance of Concerned Teachers (ACT) party list, launched on Change.org, “Hands off our SSS and GSIS contributions, NO TO House Bill 6398!”, is a petition that seeks to block the creation of the Maharlika Wealth Fund. As of writing, the petition has 24,873 signatures. (JJE)