Do not gamble the people’s hard-earned pensions | Inquirer Opinion
LETTER TO THE EDITOR

Do not gamble the people’s hard-earned pensions

/ 04:10 AM December 07, 2022

An article in Earth.org (11/9/22) stated that the Philippines has “significantly surpassed the recommended maximum level of 5 µg/m³” for air pollution. The level of fine particulate matter in our country is recorded at 24 micrograms per cubic meter (µg/m³), 4.8 times higher than the threshold level.

I suppose much of this fine particulate matter has polluted the minds of some of our honorable government officials. The proposed Maharlika sovereign wealth fund is a prime example of such pollution beyond the threshold levels emanating from the House of Representatives, and hopefully, won’t affect the Senate as well.

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The seed fund for this wealth fund will be sourced from the Government Service Insurance System (P125 billion) and the Social Security System (SSS) (P50 billion) pension funds, and from assets of the Development Bank of the Philippines and Land Bank of the Philippines, both government-owned banks. The proposed seed fund is P275 billion, or roughly $5 billion. At this point, our beloved country is definitely not wealthy to afford or even gamble its present funds to make more funds (ideally).

We are deeply mired in our foreign debt, P13 trillion and counting. Our health care workers, hailed as heroes during the COVID-19 pandemic, have yet to fully receive their allowances. The transportation sector, which has been hard-hit by the pandemic, has yet to recover its losses and be rightfully compensated. The agricultural sector is teetering as well. The list goes on for more pressing matters that government officials should attend to instead of giving priority to this brazen proposal. I think, in actuality, the Philippines has money but a lot of it though goes to graft and corruption that has become deeply entrenched. A lot of money is wasted, misused, or diverted to the pockets of corrupt officials, an example is the Pharmally issue. The lure of a government position with its concomitant benefits and privileges. The inclusion of a confidential fund in the 2023 national budget is a banquet for corruption as well since it cannot be audited. In short, the Maharlika sovereign wealth fund is a banquet for corruption. If it fails, who will be held accountable? Will the proponents, the board members of the proposed corporation, be jailed? Has the sky turned red ever? How will we cope with the losses? Mangugutang uli? The sad reality is, Juan de la Cruz remains at the losing end.

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As a regular SSS contributor, the thought of our hard-earned contributions being used as part of the seed money is both infuriating and frightening. It is always a challenge to scrape the premium amount for the quarterly contributions amid the inflation rate nowadays. As a health care worker, the setup at my workplace does not include hazard pay and coverage if you contract SARS-CoV-2. Daily prayers and armor of courage act as our shield at work.

To our elected government officials, please have some clarity of mind and conscience. To the 24 senators, please do not be “silenced by political pressure.” Work on your mandate responsibly. Do not gamble the people’s money to further your personal interests in the name of furthering the interests of your constituents. Maawa naman po kayo sa amin. We are not rich like Singapore or Norway. Let us stop having the illusion of being a rich nation. We are rich, all right. Rich in foreign debt and so much more. Surely, we do not want to go the path of Malaysia’s 1MDB. Fancy wordings in the proposed wealth fund will be just that when things go south.

Pamela I. Claveria, MD, Metro Manila

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TAGS: GSIS, national wealth fund, Pensions, SSS
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