Makabayan: 'Red flag' provisions back in Senate bill on Maharlika Investment Fund

Cristina Chi - Philstar.com
marcos, zubiri, romualdez
Senate President Juan Miguel Zubiri (L) and House Speaker Martin Romualdez (R) congratulate Philippine president Ferdinand Marcos Jr (C) after he delivered his first State of the Nation address at the House of Representatives in Quezon City, suburban Manila on July 25, 2022.
AFP / Jam Sta Rosa, pool

MANILA, Philippines — Lawmakers of the Makabayan bloc at the House are again sounding the alarm on the bill for the Maharlika Investment fund, which the president has certified as urgent, saying provisions that put pension funds at risk are back.

In a statement, the three-member Makabayan bloc said that Senate Bill 2020 brought back the use of pension funds from the Government Service Insurance System and Social Security System as seed funding for the national investment fund that have been removed from the version passed by the House.

“Months after widespread public outcry forced proponents in the House to exclude funds of the GSIS, SSS, and Pag-IBIG as sources of funding for the MIF, the Senate is set to approve its own version that lets them back in,” the lawmakers said.

“'Under no circumstances shall [the state-run pension funds] be requested or required to contribute' is the deceptive wording in the Senate bill that actually allows these pension funds to invest in the MIF — provided their governing bodies (who are all appointed by the President) voluntarily decide to do so,” they added.

In a press conference on Thursday, Rep. Arlene Brosas (Gabriela Women’s Party) also hit the provisions in the Senate MIF bill allowing foreigners to sit on the board of Maharlika Investment Corp., which will have control over the controversial investment fund.

“As if pushing for Charter Change to allow 100% foreign ownership is not enough, this administration now wants foreign businessmen to have control over our taxes, even the hard-earned pension of the Filipino people,” Brosas said.

In his letter to Senate President Juan Miguel Zubiri, President Ferdinand “Bongbong” Marcos cited the need for a wealth fund to help the country combat inflation, fluctuating oil prices, the effecst of the Russian invasion of Ukraine and interest rate hikes.

Normally, bills must be read and deliberated on on three separate days. Those that are certified urgent can bypass this requirement, which would allow for speedier passage but could also mean that lawmakers will not have time to read and study proposed measures. 

Rep. France Castro (ACT Teachers) also expressed concern over a provision allowing the government to have access to at least P125 billion worth of preferred shares.

Castro said this could be prone to “money laundering” due to the discretionary powers given to the Board of Directors.

“This opens the wealth fund to corruption, money laundering and ill-gotten wealth,” Castro said in Filipino.

Marcos earlier certified as urgent the House bill that seeks to create the Maharlika fund, which allowed the lower chamber to pass it in just 17 days from its filing. — With reports by Xave Gregorio

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