MINORITY Senators warned against distorting the interpretation of the Senate version of the Maharlika Investment Fund (MIF) bill that mandates an “absolute” prohibition against using pension funds for the controversial sovereign wealth fund.
“It is clear: the Senate’s version of the bill, which was later on adopted, orders the absolute prohibition of the use of funds of the Government Service Insurance System (GSIS), the Social Security System (SSS), Philippine Health Insurance Corp. (PhilHealth) and other insurance and pension institutions,” Deputy Minority Leader Ana Theresia “Risa” N. Hontiveros was quoted in a statement as saying.
Hontiveros was obviously reacting to remarks by Finance Secretary Benjamin E. Diokno and, before that, President Ferdinand R. Marcos Jr., qualifying the prohibition placed by senators.
Talking to reporters last week, Marcos said that the ban is on using pension funds for equity or for the seed money for the MIF. However, he said, if the boards of the SSS or GSIS later deem it a wise investment to put money in the MIF in order to grow their members’ funds, then they could do so.
In a separate briefing, Diokno said that while the Senate version imposed a prohibition on using the pension funds to seed the MIF, there was no prohibition on these pension funds investing in projects that the MIF may undertake; say, a major infrastructure project.
THE prohibition on using pension funds was widely seen as a deal breaker that allowed for a majority yes vote of 19 before the Senate adjourned sine die on June 1, since many lawmakers were balking at including the monies of the SSS and the GSIS, among others, for seed fund or equity of the P500-billion MIF.
“Sinigurado nating mailalagay ang safeguard na ito upang hindi malustay at magamit ang pera ng taumbayan,” Hontiveros said last Tuesday. [We ensured this safeguard is put in place so that the people’s money is not wasted and used.]
The senator warned that stiffer penalties await those who would be found to have misused the people’s money.
“Dagdag pa sa parusang pagkakakulong sa maling paggamit at magkakamal ng pondo. Pero bakit parang nilulusot pa rin nila ngayon?” she wants to know. [In addition, there’s a prison sentence for misappropriation and hoarding of funds. But why does it seem they’re trying to insert this sneaky provision now?]
The opposition stalwart noted that “again, the Executive branch is tasked to carry out laws that have been passed by the legislature,” stressing that “what Congress intended should be the standard for how the law is implemented.”
Hontiveros reminded that “the Executive is not allowed to change, expand or limit it based on its own interpretation.” The lawmaker is also banking that “the Senate will likewise exercise its oversight function to ensure that these safeguards for the protection of pensioners’ and contributors’ hard-earned money are enforced.”
Image credits: Albert Calvelo/Senate PRIB