By Alex P. Vidal
“We’ve seen the hubris. And now we’re seeing the scandals.”—David Gergen
WHILE people around the globe were agog and busy talking about the FIFA World Cup Qatar 2022, Filipinos have been mired in the proposed P275-billion Maharlika Wealth Fund (MWF).
If the soccer World Cup was mentioned enormously and repeatedly in the social and mainstream media these past two weeks, MWF may have also topped the chart as the most discussed and hotly debated issue in the Philippines.
But while the World Cup in Doha has been heaping accolades and immortalized in unique vignettes owing to its extravagance and distinction, MWF has been pelted with eggs and rotten tomatoes for being superfluous and too scandalous to be true.
World Cup is a mix of sports, politics, money, and glory; MWF is purely wealth tampered with politics with the start-up capital being proposed to be culled out from blood sources (read: hirap at pawis of taong bayan); the politicians’ vainglory.
This makes MWF the frontrunner in the “World Cup” of Philippine scandal.
But even after the FIFA World Cup championship match on December 18, the MWF debate will continue to rage on.
People just don’t trust the administrators of their money in this ambitious scheme. They view SWF to be unconstitutional and consider the timing as bad.
If we subject SWF to a referendum, the proponents will be badly clobbered. But because it’s a proposed House Bill, it can be railroaded, forced down on our throats, and could end up as a shotgun wedding maneuver.
The MWF, or House Bill No. 6398, reportedly intends to draw money from state-owned pension funds and banks for investments.
Filed by lawmakers led by presidential cousin Speaker Martin Romualdez and presidential son Senior Deputy Majority Leader Sandro Marcos, it will be reportedly used as a sovereign wealth fund (SWF) meant to raise government revenues.
Their co-authors are House Majority Leader Mannix Dalipe, Tingog Party-list Reps. Yedda Romualdez and Jude Acidre, and Marikina Rep. Stella Quimbo.
The word “Maharlika” has been pointed to be a reference to the buzzword (in)famously used by Marcos’ father and namesake, the late dictator Ferdinand E. Marcos.
Under the proposal, funds for the MWF will come from the following institutions: P125 billion—Government Service Insurance System (GSIS); P50 billion—Social Security System (SSS); P50 billion—Land Bank of the Philippines; P25 billion—Development Bank of the Philippines.
But we heard they have decided to exclude the GSIS and SSS after the members and contributors threatened to run amuck.
The national government would also be required to provide an initial P25 billion, as with the Bangko Sentral ng Pilipinas (BSP), which would chip in using remittances from overseas Filipino workers or OFWs and annual contribution of business process outsourcing or BPO companies. Additionally, the Philippine Amusement and Gaming Corp. or PAGCOR will also share a percentage of its gambling proceeds.
Department of Finance Secretary Benjamin Diokno said the bill already has the “imprimatur” of Marcos. Lawmakers have pushed for the MWF bill’s approval by Dec. 12.
Indeed, a World Cup of scandal.
If we review the video on Youtube, it’s crystal clear that then 21-year-old Manny Pacquiao was already up at the count of six while referee Carlos Padilla Jr was administering the mandatory 8-count.
The Pinoy pugilist was decked by a solid punch uncorked by Australian prospect Nedal Hussein in a 12-round WBC international bout in Manila 22 years ago.
Thus there could have been no “long count” as Padilla Jr. had alleged in a recent video interview uploaded by the WBC.
We can see in the video Padilla’s count didn’t reach 18 as he had alleged.
It’s possible the controversy was when Padilla stopped the fight in the 10th round and ruled Hussein unfit to continue even if the visitor was hit by a headbutt and not by a legitimate punch.
The beauty of modern boxing is that all the bouts are recorded on video, making it impossible for corrupt referees and judges to play monkey business.
Either Padilla Jr., who is now 88 years old, was only joking or he was not in his right mind when he “confessed” his dishonesty that occurred when Pacquiao, now 43, wasn’t yet a global boxing celebrity. Or both.
(The author, who is now based in New York City, used to be the editor of two local dailies in Iloilo.—Ed)