June 1, 2023
MANILA, Philippines — “With the Maharlika Investment Fund [MIF], it’s like we are gambling with the money set aside by parents for their children’s education. It’s like we’re wasting the money of ordinary Filipinos which they could use for their own direct benefit.”
Gabriela party-list Rep. France Castro made the statement, speaking in Filipino, at Wednesday’s House session, where she and Kabataan party-list Rep. Raoul Manuel, voiced their opposition to their chamber’s adoption of the Senate version of the Maharlika bill.
Castro and Manuel are members of the Makabayan bloc in the House.
Brosas also pointed out that the Philippines could not afford to MIF, saying: “We are trying to pass a sovereign wealth fund as if we have a surplus — as if we have a strong economy. And we all know that is not the reality. We could’ve used our time and energy in passing meaningful legislation, but here we are railroading Maharlika Investment Fund despite strong opposition from the public.”
Meanwhile, Manuel said that the House-approved version of the MIF — which contained amendments proposed by the Makabayan bloc — was very different from the Senate version that the House adopted.
“What we have discussed here and heavily debated in the House […] is very different from what was approved by the Senate,” Manuel said.
“Of course, for the information of our colleagues, what we approved is a budget of P75 billion for the Maharlika Investment Fund. In the Senate, it’s P500 billion — equivalent to one-tenth of our annual national budget,” he went on, speaking partly in Filipino.
“Secondly, it’s part of the Senate version that our government can borrow so that there would money for the investment fund. It means that we will borrow money to gamble — through the issuance of bonds,” Manuel added.
‘Why even debate about it?’
Castro questioned why there were even debates inside Congress when the Senate version would end up just adhering to the request of the executive department.
“We even debate about it and made amendments. But then, what was followed was what the Palace wanted — which will, however, be bad for the interests of the Filipino people,” Castro said.
“Hindi mareresolba ng sinasabing ginawa nilang amendments sa huling Senate version ng MIF ang katotohanan na walang suplus na pera ang bansa at di uubra na sa gobyerno at mga GOCCs at GFIs manggagaling ang kalakhan ng pondo nito. Lubog na nga tayo sa utang isusugal pa ang pera ng bayan dito,” she continued.
“The amendments they made in the Senate version of the MIF would not resolve the fact that the country has no surplus of funds. And it can’t be that most of the funds will come from the government and GOCCs and GFIs [government-owned and controlled corporations and government financial institutions]. We are already deep in debt and yet we will still gamble with the country’s money.”
Quick Senate approval
Earlier, during the plenary session, the House formally adopted the Senate Bill No, 2020 as their version of the MIF bill.
This came after Manila Rep. Irwin Tieng, chair of the House Committee on Banks and Financial Intermediaries said: “On behalf of the Congress panel, we accept the Senate version in principle — subject to style.”
Last December, the House approved on its third reading its own version of the MIF bill after it was certified by Marcos as urgent.
A similar certification also allowed the Senate to do away with the requirement of three-session days before a bill passed on the second reading could be deliberated on the third reading.
The Senate version of the bill was approved on its third reading early Wednesday morning.
As the House had already adopted the Senate version, there is no need for a bicameral conference committee report — which means the bill would then be forwarded to President Ferdinand Marcos Jr. for his signature.