Various groups opposed to the proposed US$4.9 billion sovereign wealth fund, also known as the “Maharlika Investments Fund” (MIF), staged a demonstration outside the House of Representatives on December 7 to demand the withdrawal of the measure.
“The widespread opposition of the people should be enough reason for legislators to pull out the Maharlika wealth fund bill now,” said Cristina Palabay, secretary general of the group Karapatan.
She warned that legislators pressing for the passage of the bill in Congress “will definitely face public uproar over this brazen attempt to rake out public funds to advance their self-serving interests.”
Karapatan said that as inflation reached eight percent in November, several other proposed measures need to be prioritized to respond to urgent calls to control prices, increase wages and salaries, and provide aid and assistance to calamity and pandemic-stricken Filipinos.
Congressmen Sandro Marcos and Martin Romualdez — the president’s son and cousin respectively — are among the six authors of the bill filed to the House of Representatives and will be examined by several committees before being debated in the house.
The MIF would be seeded with 275 billion pesos from government financial institutions, including two pension funds and two banks, according to the latest version of the bill.
It would help the Marcos administration achieve its goals of getting the Philippine economy to “soar to greater heights in spite of external shocks,” the authors wrote.
The word “maharlika” is widely associated with Marcos Jr’s late dictator father and namesake, who presided over widespread human rights abuses and corruption during his two decades in power. He was ousted in 1986.
Marcos Sr claimed to have led an anti-Japanese guerrilla unit called Ang Mga Maharlika during World War II, but he has been accused of lying about his war record.
The MIF has been met with concern from business groups, economists, activists and opposition figures, who have questioned the need for a sovereign wealth fund in the debt-laden country.
They argue pension funds were already being invested and that diverting them to the MIF would expose them to additional risk.
Even the president’s own sister, Senator Imee Marcos, said it was “risky to gamble” retirement funds.
“We all know about our neighbour Malaysia where their 1MDB was a real disaster where the money was looted,” she said, referring to the graft scandal that involved billions of dollars of state funds.
A lack of safeguards also meant “the potential for corruption is almost limitless”, Vincent Lazatin, former executive director of the Transparency and Accountability Network, told AFP Tuesday. – with a report from AFP