The people’s vote of no confidence | Inquirer Opinion
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The people’s vote of no confidence

The continuing tussle over the Maharlika Wealth Fund (MWF) reveals the nature of the controversy—it is an ongoing vote of confidence in the Marcos Jr. administration’s economic strategy. As things stand in the public sphere, the people’s verdict is leaning toward a vote of no confidence.

My summary of the top infirmities of the MWF are: (1) dubious conceptual, legal, and contextual soundness; (2) no consultation with powerless, voiceless Government Service Insurance System (GSIS) and Social Security System (SSS) stakeholders; (3) imagining that legal safeguards automatically translate into scrupulous implementation; (4) undue haste in ramming crucial legislation through the House of Representatives; and (5) lack of clear progeny and responsibility for the current MWF concept.

The very size and urgency of the MWF are its very weakness—lack of prototyping in proper context makes the scheme very risky.


But the optics are just as fatal. First is the insensitivity to the unsavory historic reputation of the Marcos family’s handling of public funds while in power. Second is the frontloading of credit to the Marcos family, while due diligence has yet to be completed by the economic managers.


The MWF could have been very timely when historic opportunities like the sale of Fort Bonifacio or Malampaya indeed created surplus government funds. The current context is also inauspicious—a world unsettled by COVID-19 and the Russian war against Ukraine sending destabilizing ripples of inflation, shortages, and imbalances across the globe.

The regional optics also strike fear in the hearts of ordinary people as former Malaysian prime minister Najib Razak goes to jail for plundering the 1MDB funds. The conjugal caper of Najib and Rosmah looks like “nothing but a second-rate, trying hard copycat” of the plunder of Ferdinand and Imelda Marcos. So, what Shakespearean cruelty is contemplated for the nation when Ferdinand Marcos Jr., Ferdinand Alexander Marcos, and Ferdinand Martin Romualdez now push this “Maharlika” scheme, as if to evoke the blessing of Ferdinand Marcos Sr.?

In the wake of the recent OCTA survey that reports that the Filipino people give President Marcos Jr. an 86-percent trust rating and a 78-percent performance rating, how do we square these sparkling statistics with the incendiary pushback the Marcos Jr. administration is getting? It is as if the people are saying: “You can help yourself to my vote and surveyed opinion, but don’t you dare touch my money.”

It is revealing how three economists display their support for this MWF. Albay Rep. Joey Salceda seems a reluctant promoter, but he pinpoints for us the real raison d’être for the Fund: “The General Appropriations Act (GAA) is restricted by the fact that you have 300 congressmen with parochial concerns. ’Pag dumaan sa Kongreso, every congressman wants something for his constituency.” So, Salceda looks at the MWF as if it were a traffic counterflow scheme to deal with a constipated Congress.

On the other hand, Marikina Rep. Stella Quimbo thinks relying on the GAA is too slow. The MWF will energize investments and hasten Philippine development beyond what the GAA can generate. She is so much more animated in defending the bill than Salceda. However, she admits the scheme needs tweaking and awaits the economic managers to perfect their submission to the House committee.

Confident and articulate as she is, Quimbo appears oblivious to the reputation of Congress as an institution that is footloose with the people’s money as suggested by the approval of the hefty intelligence and confidential funds of the President and the Vice President. She also affects naïveté in believing that the letter of the law and formal safeguards will dictate the success of a long-term project’s implementation.


As to our third economist, Central Bank governor Felipe Medalla, he seemed sure and sincere when he publicly expressed his initial doubts about the MWF. Apparently, as Quimbo explains, he was absent when the economic managers forged their common position. Committees have a way of bending individual wills and convictions. Now, Medalla is portrayed in a joint press statement of the economic managers as fully supporting the Fund.

As it stands, the MWF is no longer “sovereign” nor about “wealth.” Without the contribution of GSIS and SSS and other excluded sources, it may be too modest for a sovereign fund. As for the word “Maharlika,” it is valid if by this we mean an edifice complex prone to hyperbole and incapable of real achievement.

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TAGS: sovereign wealth fund

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