No urgency to pass Maharlika fund bill: People already in deep debt don’t need it – lawmaker
MANILA, Philippines — To certify as urgent a bill that aims to establish the Maharlika Investment Fund (MIF) is not necessary because “people who are already deep [in] debt” do not need it.
Alliance of Concerned Teachers Party-list Rep. France Castro made this assertion Wednesday, countering the belief of Speaker and Leyte 1st District Rep. Martin Romualdez who earlier urged his cousin, President Ferdinand Marcos Jr., to certify as urgent House Bill (HB) No. 6608.
A bill certified as urgent could skip the three-session day requirement before the House of Representatives proceeds with a third and final reading of a measure. Simply, the passage of a bill certified as urgent would be faster than the usual process.
But Castro said that a proposed law of such high importance as it involves the utilization of huge government funds should be scrutinized properly.
“There is no necessity to certify as urgent the Maharlika Investment Fund. it is not needed by the people who are already deep [in] debt, who are finding it difficult to make ends meet due to the rising prices of goods and the low salaries. The only people pushing for the urgent passage are its proponents,” she stressed.
“People’s organizations, economists, experts, business groups, academics and the people have sounded their opposition to this bill that prioritizes an investment fund over budget for social services even with a deficit budget. There should be no rush in passing a bill that involves billions of people’s money,” she added.
According to Castro, there are several issues that need to be addressed even if HB No. 6608 – originally HB No. 6398 – already went through several amendments.
Among others, the party-list lawmaker inquired if the MIF could be tapped to fund development projects like the Kaliwa dam, which they believe is disadvantageous to the environment and the indigenous peoples.
She also raised the issue on whether the MIF would eventually accept investment money from government-owned or -controlled corporations (GOCCs), including government financial institutions (GFIs), like the Government Service Insurance System (GSIS) and Social Security System.
The latest version of the bill removed GSIS and SSS from the list of fund sources to finance the initial capital for the MIF.
“There is still a slew of issues that have to be answered on top of those already raised by concerned groups and individuals. Among these issues are (1) the question if the Maharlika fund would be used to fund developments like the Kaliwa dam that would wreak havoc on the environment and displace indigenous peoples like the Dumagats and Remontados,” Castro noted.
“They have not given an assurance that the SSS and GSIS funds would not be used by this fund now or in the future; (3) Can it be used for money laundering considering that it is such a huge fund and any company dummy or otherwise can invest in it; (4) Such a bill should not be rushed considering that it is not even a month old and it should be used just as a bragging point in the international community in Davos,” she added.
A statement released by the office of Speaker Romualdez showed that 246 of the 312 current members of the House of Representatives have pledged support for HB No. 6608 as of Wednesday afternoon.
To pass a bill in the third reading, a measure needs to get a majority vote or more than half of the lawmakers present during plenary session; and in case a bill is vetoed by the President, it would need two-thirds vote from both chambers of Congress.
The nearly 250 backers of the controversial proposal could be enough to fulfill the requirements on both circumstances.
To recall, the proposed MIF earned broad backlash as the bill’s original version intended to tap the money of pensioners as part of the seed capital for the MIF.
Under the original bill, proponents planned to put up P275 billion venture money for the MIF which will be derived specifically from the GSIS (P125 billion), SSS (P50 billion), Land Bank of the Philippines (P50 billion), Development Bank of the Philippines (P25 billion) and the General Appropriations Act (P25 billion).
The bill seeking to establish the MIF was principally authored by Romualdez; Majority Floor Leader and Zamboanga City 2nd District Rep. Manuel Jose Dalipe; Ilocos Norte 1st District Rep. Ferdinand Alexander “Sandro” Marcos; Tingog Party-list Reps. Yedda Marie Romualdez and Jude Acidre; and Marikina 2nd District Rep. Stella Quimbo.