Volume IV, Number 23. 15 December 2022.
All indications show that Marcos Jr.’s pet bill, the ‘Maharlika Investment Fund’ will be a rip-off. The proposed law is a Marcos family project introduced to congress by the President’s first cousin House Speaker Martin Romualdez and the President’s son Deputy Minority Leader Sandro Marcos. Despite strong opposition, including big business organizations, Marcos Jr.’s henchmen in Congress are pushing hard for the bill’s passage before the end of the year.
Why is the MIF so obnoxious? It is prioritized at a time when the country is undergoing an ever-worsening economic crisis. The national debt stands at a record high of PhP13.52 trillion (USD245.8 billion) as of end of September 2022. In 2021, government budget deficit has risen to PhP1.7trillion (USD34.7 billion) and the national trade deficit is at USD47.36 billion.
Marcos Jr. and his cohorts plan to build the MIF seed fund by scraping off from the very limited public money as well as from pension funds. In other countries, sovereign investment funds are formed with surplus wealth to generate financing. These wealth funds are usually seeded by windfall government profits from natural resources, such as oil or surpluses in government revenues.
The proposed bill seeks to grant the MIF blanket exemptions from taxes, and from laws meant to ensure transparency and good governance, prudent fund management, and fair competition. Under the present environment of systemic corruption, such conditions will enable the MIF to favour local oligarchs and foreign big business close to Marcos Jr. Given how Malaysia’s similar wealth fund was plundered by the former prime minister, fears of the same outcome are well-founded. In 2021, Transparency International in its Corruption Perception Index gave a failing grade of 33% to the Philippines, where 86% of Filipinos think that corruption in the government is a big problem.
Lastly, but most importantly, entrusting such public funds at the discretion of Marcos Jr., son of world class thief and late dictator Ferdinand Marcos, is akin to appointing a thief to manage a bank! Marcos Jr. is at the forefront of their family’s effort to prevent the recovery of their ill-gotten wealth. He is also using his authority to prevent the collection of PhP203 billion (USD3.64 billion) tax liability of his family. Former Chairman Andres Bautista of the Presidential Commission on Good Government, the reactionary government’s agency tasked with recovering the Marcos ill-gotten wealth, said that only Php170 billion (USD3.05 billion) was recovered from the estimated PhP500 billion (USD8.98 billion) loot. Through the MIF, the Marcoses can easily launder and legitimize the unrecovered plundered money.
As shown by the bill authors’ tactical retreat from making the pension funds as the bulk of the seed capitalization for the MIF, a strong opposition can frustrate this malevolent Marcos scam. The Filipino people needs to unite and fight the Marcoses’ schemes to consolidate their ill-gotten wealth and demand the return of all stolen funds to the Filipino people.