Senator Alan Peter “Compañero” Cayetano said the government must prioritize the implementation of proper safeguards in the Maharlika Investment Fund (MIF) of 2023 to guarantee its success and effectively serve the interests of the Filipino people.
This as the Senate in the wee hours of Wednesday morning passed Senate Bill No. 2020 or the proposed MIF, with 19 votes in the affirmative, one negative, and one abstention.
The bill is set to go to the bicameral conference committee to reconcile the Senate version with that of the House of Representatives’.
“Huwag lang nating ipasa ito na may tamang safeguard, ipasa rin natin ito to make sure that it meets the objective na kumita ito and that the money goes to the Filipino people,” Cayetano said in a manifestation late Tuesday night during the discussion on the bill.
Cayetano said there are pressing priorities in the short term that demand greater attention. “I would rather use the fund for education, agriculture, infrastructure, and health. The bottom line is that we have to align the priorities of this fund,” he said.
Citing data from the Philippine Statistics Authority, Cayetano said six out of 10 Filipinos “die without seeing a doctor.” He also said 16,000 barangays “still do not have a primary health unit, walang health center.”
Cayetano said one way of dealing with these immediate problems is allocating the P500 billion seed capital of the MIF towards the critical needs of the education, agriculture, infrastructure, and health sectors.
But he said the better way is to make sure the MIF succeeds and that reforms are introduced in the 2024 national budget.
“I can criticize to death na dapat iyang 500 billion [na seed capital ng MIF], mapunta lahat iyan sa school buildings. But if we can somehow fix that in the budget in 2024, then we’ll have both,” he explained.
“We will have a Maharlika Fund that deals with its specific objectives and we’ll also have the classrooms that we need,” he added.
Neither good nor evil
Cayetano said his personal stand on MIF is that the sovereign fund is neither good nor evil.
“It’s like a gun na kung nasa kamay ng pulis and it’s for peace and order, eh di maganda. If it’s in the hand of the kidnapper, eh di gagamitin sa masama. Ang baril ba ay pwedeng i-abuse? Pwede,” he said.
“Our duty [in the Senate] is to pass a law that will make sure that the proper safeguards are there, precisely para hindi ma-abuse at magamit sa masama. Meaning ‘yung public funds (ay) para sa publiko,” he added.
As he wrapped up his manifestation, Cayetano asserted his commitment to evaluate the MIF measure objectively, irrespective of the administration in power.
“I had a deep thought on this na kung na-file kaya ito noong Duterte administration, would I support it or not? I came to the conclusion that I would still look at it the same. I would still push for the proper priorities now,” he said.