Maharlika fund bill needs to be scrutinized, debated on – Jinggoy

(MANILA BULLETIN) Senator Jose ‘’Jinggoy’’ Ejercito Estrada has questioned why proponents are rushing the approval of the proposed P275-billion sovereign wealth fund bill when senators have yet to iron out kinks and hold public debates to discuss the matter.

During a DWIZ radio interview Saturday, Dec. 3, Estrada said that while he is not against the approval of the proposed Maharlika Wealth Fund (MWF), which would draw resources primarily from contributions from state pension funds and state-owned lenders, “We still have to see the need for it.”

“We have to scrutinize it. We have to debate it extensively, at ako personally, marami din akong pwedeng maitanong tungkol dyan sa MWF na ‘yan (I personally would want to ask questions about MWF),” he pointed out.

“There are a lot of questions that can be raised. First of all, saan nila kukunin ‘yung pera? (First, where will they get the money come from?) Pangalawa (Second) is it safe or is it risky? If they’re going to get it from GSIS, SSS, are we going to risk the pensions of our pensioners? Bakit nagmamadali na maaprubahan ito bago magbakasyon eh marami pa tayong katanungan ukol dyan sa Maharlika Wealth Fund na ‘yan (Why the rush to approve it before our Christmas break even if there’s so many questions about MWF),” he said.

The veteran lawmaker also urged colleagues to exercise caution given the case of Malaysia when its state-owned investment fund 1MDB, which was supposed to promote development, was channeled into the personal bank account of former Prime Minister Najib Razak.

“I’m not saying na mangyayari dito sa Pilipinas ‘yan no (I am not saying this might also happen in the Philippines). Kailangan siguro maglagay pa tayo ng additional safety nets o safeguards kung maa-approve itong MWF na ito (So there is a need to put safeguards or additional safety nets if we approve this MWF),” Estrada said.

With only two weeks left before Congress goes on Christmas break, Estrada expressed pessimism about the passage of the controversial by the Senate.

“That is my opinion right now. Kasi bakit naman minamadali? (Why the rush?) We only have two weeks to go and this entails a lot of funds, this amounts to P275 billion. ‘Yung budget nga ng Pilipinas tatlong linggo naming pinag-uusapan, pinag dedebatehan, ito pa kayang P275 billion? Madalian? That can wait naman (We have been debating on the proposed 2023 national budget for the past three weeks, and why the rush to pass the P275 MWF?),” he stressed.

Estrada supported Senate President Juan Miguel Zubiri’s position to have the matter studied carefully by a select group of senators and provide the Upper Chamber feedback on the essence of the MWF.

“Pabor ako dyan (I favor that). It will determine the pros and cons ng MWF and kung aatasan ni Senate President ‘yung ibang senators concerned, siguro sana mabigyan lang tayo ng timetable kung kailan nila matatapos ‘yung pag-aaral at pagsusuri nitong MWF (Since the study was asked by the Senate President, maybe we could be given a timetable for this),” he said.

On the matter of the bill being an initiative of the President, Estrada said it is incumbent upon lawmakers to scrutinize the nitty-gritty of the measure, ensuring the necessary safeguards to protect the utilization of the funds.

“Kaya naman tayo hinalal bilang mga senador para makita kung ano ‘yung mga loopholes (We were elected as senators to find out the loopholes) . Kung talagang kinakailangan at aprubado naman sa both Houses at merong necessary safeguards saka safety nets sa MWF, why not? (If both Houses of Congress find that there is a need to approve it…with necessary safeguards and safety nets, why not?) Kung makakatulong naman sa ating kababayan (If it will help our countrymen…),” he said. -Mario Casayuran/ Manila Bulletin