Hands off!

Published December 8, 2022, 12:02 AM

by Jullie Y. Daza


Jullie Y. Daza

“It’s our money!”

“Don’t you dare touch it!”

In a nutshell, that’s how SSS and GSIS members, including retirees who are on pension mode, express their distrust of whoever will handle, manage, use the money to be poured into the so-called Maharlika Wealth Fund. Public opinion is simply, loudly not in favor of sourcing P275 billion from the two pension funds.

It’s a beautiful idea, just pronounce the word “sovereign” as in sovereign fund and you hear the ring of majesty. Unfortunately, the word on the tip of the tongue of the public is something else: Trust, or the lack of it. They don’t trust a plan by which hundreds of billions from every bead of sweat, blood, and tears from years of contributing to GSIS and SSS can or should be left to the genius of a handful of finance experts.

The public cannot forget the Philhealth fiasco of recent memory. Nor can they trash the epithet stuck on the Bureau of Customs decades ago by Ernesto Maceda, “flagship of corruption.” On the same day (Dec. 6, 2022) that this paper carried a story on the opinions pro and con expressed by legislators on the wealth fund, another story reported how the Commission on Audit ordered the Securities and Exchange Commission to return P93 million that SEC appropriated for their salary hikes in 2012, 10 years ago!

Against a wallpaper of history, current events, bad memories, experience and observation, the gamut of citizen awareness seems ranged on the side of suspicion. As Murphy’s Law puts it, if anything can go wrong, it will.

The sovereign fund has all the magnificent qualities that its proponents envision them. By all means let’s have it. Just don’t dip into a piggy bank fed by the teaspoonful by small people. Don’t take away the nest egg into which they may dip for a small loan, a small convenience, a small reward. Other sources of fat funds ought to be available in such a rich country.

Look how Pope Francis yanked out every single official of Caritas Internationalis, the Church’s social action arm in 200 countries with a million workers and volunteers, in the hope of “improving what is already excellent,” to quote its new commissioner.