Many Filipinos, when faced with something against them that seems insurmountable, go into the “if you can’t lick them, laugh at them” mode. And not just laugh, but ridicule their adversaries till the carabaos come home. They hurl satires, caricatures, jingles, and memes in the hope that they could bring the monster to its knees. (Remember the Pharmally anomaly jingle sung to the tune of Yoyoy Villame’s “Buchikik”?)
And so we’re back at creating eye- and ear-catching scenarios in hopes that our worst fears will not come to be. Bring it on!
I leave it to the legal and financial experts to eloquently question and argue against the Maharlika Wealth Fund bill that, if passed, would dig into the pension funds of the Government Service Insurance System (GSIS) and the Social Security System (SSS), and invest them in foreign corporate bonds or wherever. Whosever’s brainchild it is—and there is a cabal of them—it was like a piece of (…) that hit the ceiling fan. The fallout was immediate, triggering reactions from GSIS and SSS contributors, pensioners, and the militant subspecies of suspicious doubters, bless them.
Government funds of whatever name have been equated with plunder and, thankfully, with prison time for the guilty. But the guilty are back in power in no time, grinning at you from ear to ear. The word “plunder” has an onomatopoeic ring to it because it rhymes with thunder. Alas, the plunderers must have such insatiable appetites that they never learn from the thunderous boos that booted them out of power. They come back. For more?
And that is what many are afraid of. The ghost of the multibillion coco levy fund coughed up by millions of coconut farmers during the Marcos dictatorship that haunts us to this day. Not a single centavo had gone back to individual farmers in some shape or form long after the culprits had scampered away and, later, while the legal debate was raging on whether it was a private or public fund. Many coconut farmers hobbled to their graves in a state of penury. Not even the spirit of tuba could ease their distress. And now, pray tell, what is the state of our coconut industry?
Oft quoted in social media is the succinct argument of former Supreme Court senior associate justice Antonio Carpio on the Maharlika fund: “The SSS and GSIS funds are personal contributions of their respective members who own the funds. Even the employers’ contributions in effect form part of the compensation of the employees. Thus, the income of SSS and GSIS investible funds must benefit only their respective members. The income of the Maharlika Sovereign Wealth Fund is for the benefit of all Filipinos, including non-SSS and non-GSIS members. The law cannot give the income from SSS and GSIS funds to non-members who did not contribute to the funds. This is taking of private property for a public purpose without just compensation, which is unconstitutional.”
Others who went through the bill word for word saw red flags in it, saying in conclusion that “the bill is authored by at least two legislators connected to the plunderous dynasty that the Filipino people ousted in 1986. We don’t want the fox to guard the chicken coop.” There’s more.
The bill has no solid provision for the contributors to be represented. You don’t put up a fund for whatever purpose from funds that belong to individual contributors but who have no say in it. And like in the case of the coco levy fund, will there be a legal debate later on whether the Maharlika fund is public or private? One cannot help conjuring images of Maharlika as becoming a milking cow, as in Maharlicow. Whoever thought of using the ancient word for something questionable must have thought it was cool.
Think of the bureaucrats who will manage the funds, the perks, the allowances, etc., while the hard-working contributors brave traffic, typhoons, sickness, and old age. Think of the high risks that come with investments. And the profits, if at all, will not be channeled back to the source of the funds and their owners.
Exhale. We have our suspicions about so-called confidential funds and intelligence funds that are granted those who hold high positions, who think transparency could be a hindrance to their mandate. How and why, they do not explain. Their gain, our loss.
Today is the 37th anniversary of the Philippine Daily Inquirer. I celebrate my almost 37 years (starting as a magazine feature writer) in this paper and its various platforms. More power to the word!
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