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Opinion

Bad memories

SENTINEL - Ramon T. Tulfo - The Philippine Star

It would be better if the name “Maharlika” is not used in discussing the pros and cons of the proposed sovereign wealth fund (SWF).

Maharlika, which means “freedmen” or “free men” in Tagalog folklore, brings back bad memories of martial law, rightly or wrongly.

So much has been said in defense and criticism of the sovereign wealth fund, which was put forward in a bill filed by Speaker Martin Romualdez and Ilocos Norte Congressman Sandro Marcos, the President’s first cousin and son, respectively.

This columnist does not want to add my two cents’ worth, but I would like to cite an aversion to the bill by Sen. Imee Marcos, the President’s elder sister.

The late president Ferdinand E. Marcos’ eldest child said, “Retirement funds should be zero risk. Their values are depleting due to inflation and rising prices, and yet these will be placed elsewhere?”

Imee was referring to the pension funds of members of the Social Security System (SSS) and the Government Service Insurance System (GSIS), the proposed major sources of the controversial sovereign wealth fund.

If you ask me, Imee has more introspection, experience and better sense than Martin and Sandro.

Former GSIS president and general manager Clint Aranas has this to say: “The funds are owned by contributors. Both SSS and GSIS already engage in investments of the pension funds of their members. The resistance and distrust (to the SWF) stem from concerns on how the funds will be managed by political appointees.”

But the most persuasive argument against the SWF comes from one of President Bongbong Marcos’ most trusted advisers, who I will not name.

His advice to BBM carries weight as he has no personal interests, only the President’s success in governance.

Here’s that guy’s text message when I asked him about his take on the SWF: “Good idea. Terrible positioning and launch. They’ve lost control of the dialogue at the outset. (It) should happen but not by risking pension money.”

*      *      *

Filipino leaders, by and large, can’t be trusted with handling other people’s money.

People who insist on going through with the SWF should look at the bitter experiences of the AFPSLAI (Armed Forces and Police Savings and Loans Association), AMWSLAI (Air Materiel Wing Savings and Loan Association Inc.) and RSBS (Retirement and Separation Benefits System).

The funds of the members of those mutual benefit associations were squandered in poor investments or ended up in the pockets of some generals.

We’ve seen the same thing happen in how the Priority Development Assistance Fund (PDAF) was spent by some legislators for their personal purposes, and not for their constituents.

*      *      *

The Department of Education has become the beneficiary of a P150-million bounty from the House of Representatives in the form of a confidential intelligence fund (CIF).

How the CIF will be used by DepEd, which has no intelligence and security functions, is vague. The justifications for it are all motherhood statements.

House appropriations committee chairman Elizaldy Co says it’s to “secure the future of our children.”

“That’s the decision of the House because it would be more difficult if our children are recruited and led to the wrong path. So we want the DepEd to secure the future of our children,” said Co, Ako Bicol party-list representative.

Vice President and concurrent DepEd chief Sara Duterte-Carpio said the following in defense of the CIF: “The threats to the learning environment, safety of DepEd personnel are interlocking with the mandate of support to the national security of civilian offices.”

Really? But how?

*      *      *

President Bongbong Marcos led the ceremonial turnover of housing units for 30,000 low-income families and rebel returnees.

Let’s hope the BBM-sponsored housing units will not go the way of the condominium units built by president Fidel V. Ramos for informal settlers (a modern euphemism for squatters) who lived along railroad tracks.

The condominium units, now a huge eyesore on Osmeña Avenue in Manila, were sold or rented out by their beneficiaries to others.

The beneficiaries of the FVR-sponsored condo units went back to squatting on government or private properties.

Poor families in Metro Manila and other urban areas are averse to living in high-rise buildings. They prefer to live in clusters of shanties. The womenfolk engage in gossip and the men go on drinking sprees in their free time.

There is always free time to gossip and get drunk for these destitute people, as they’re mostly jobless.

If they’re given employment, they can become useful members of society.

*      *      *

Destroying 100,000 tons of confiscated onions instead of selling them to Kadiwa centers or government-run stores is a stupid idea.

Countless Filipino people are suffering from hunger because of the rising prices of food.

If confiscated smuggled food items are sold in Kadiwa centers, their prices will make them affordable to the poor.

If the smuggled onions are destroyed by the Bureau of Customs and the Bureau of Plant Industry, there’s a big chance the smugglers can buy them back.

*      *      *

Joke! Joke! Joke!

A little boy, waiting for his mother to come out of a grocery store, was approached by a man asking for directions to the Post Office.

“Just go straight down this street and then turn right at the end of it,” the boy tells the stranger.

Grateful, the stranger tells the kid: “I’m the new minister in town. I’d like you to come to my church on Sunday. I’ll show you the way to heaven.”

The kid replies with a chuckle and says, “Aww, come on! You don’t even know your way to the Post Office.”

SOVEREIGN WEALTH FUND

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