Poor need ample aid, not corrupt-prone Maharlika wealth fund, gov’t told
MANILA, Philippines – Gabriela Rep. Arlene Brosas on Monday urged the government to respond to the desperate pleas of poverty-stricken Filipinos by providing them with direct and sufficient aid rather than creating the embattled Maharlika sovereign wealth fund.
Brosas staunchly opposed the government’s plan to create such a fund, which would force the usage of the pension funds from the Government Service Insurance System (GSIS) and the Social Security System (SSS) in high-risk investments with no say from pension contributors.
“Malinaw naman ang hiling ng mamamayan: ayuda, pagtataas ng sahod, at pagpapababa ng presyo ng bilihin (What the people want is clear: Aid, wage hikes and lower prices for commodities). It’s infuriating how this government would rather prioritize corruption-prone legislation instead of crafting laws that will provide direct aid to marginalized Filipinos,” Brosas said in a statement.
The lawmaker decried the proposed fund, pointing out that it would only worsen the plight of poverty-stricken Filipinos, who have no voice in the decisions made about their pension contributions.
“Sa Maharlika investment fund, mayayaman lang ang makikinabang habang ang mga mamamayan lalong maghihirap. Hindi dapat pakialaman pa ang perang pinaghirapan ng mga manggagawa at kawani,” she added.
(Only the rich people will gain from the Maharlika investment fund, while the others will suffer. The government shouldn’t do anything with the hard-earned money of workers.)
Brosas urged that workers must be empowered to have sole control over the handling of their SSS and GSIS funds.
President Ferdinand “Bongbong” Marcos Jr.’s cousin, House Speaker Martin Romualdez, and son, Senior Deputy Majority Leader Sandro Marcos, have come up with House Bill 6398, which includes a Maharlika fund. To finance the project, they propose that the state-run pension funds and two banks initially invest P250 billion, while the national government should contribute an additional P25 billion.
Finance Secretary Benjamin Diokno earlier said the Maharlika fund has already earned the go signal of Marcos.
Critics have since slammed this move as they called for the proposal to be thoroughly scrutinized and deliberated before considering its passage.
An online petition – “Hands off our SSS and GSIS contributions, NO TO House Bill 6398!” – was also launched by David Michael San Juan, a professor at the De La Salle University and the third nominee of ACT Teachers party list, to block the creation of the Maharlika fund.
As of 1 p.m. on Monday, the petition had more than 23,000 signatures.
“We urge the Filipino people to be vigilant, especially with the administration hell-bent on passing questionable legislation at the expense of the poor. We must reject these schemes to bring back another era of corruption and abuse,” Brosas said.
She compared the proposed Maharlika fund to the Coco Levy fund established under the rule of Ferdinand Marcos Sr., father of Bongbong.
“Hindi pa nakuntento sa confidential at intelligence fund. Gusto pa ng Maharlika Fund na maaaring maging balon ng korapsyon tulad ng Coco Levy Fund scam noong panahon ni Marcos Sr.,” Brosas pointed out.
(They weren’t content with the confidential and intelligence fund. Now, they want a Maharlika fund that may turn into a well of corruption like the Coco Levy Fund scam during Marcos Sr.)
To recall, a total of P9.6 billion was collected from coconut farmers from 1971 until 1983. After Marcos Sr. was ousted from power in 1986, all coco levy-acquired assets were sequestered by the Presidential Commission on Good Government.
Based on various lawsuits, it was later discovered that the collected levy fund was used to invest in and buy businesses for the benefit of Marcos and his cronies.
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