Economist: Rename Maharlika fund, ensure transparency

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Metro Manila (CNN Philippines, December 19) — The Maharlika Investment Fund should be renamed to make it more politically neutral, according to economist Dr. Michael Batu.

During the Laging Handa briefing on Monday, Batu said Filipinos associate the term “Maharlika” with the Marcoses, which brings positive and negative memories.

Maharlika or “warrior class” was the supposed name of an anti-Japanese guerilla unit led by the late dictator Ferdinand E. Marcos, a claim that has been debunked many times.

Senator Risa Hontiveros said the proposed bill seeking to create a sovereign wealth fund is apparently another move to restore the image of the president’s late father.

Batu suggests a more politically neutral name such as Philippine Strategic Investment Fund, which is not associated with anyone.

“Meron ‘yang inter-generational significance. Hindi mag-o-operate sa generation lang natin, ina-anticipate natin na mag-o-operate ito sa future ng mga anak at apo natin. Sa time ba na 'yun meron pa rin bang mga Marcos o iba na ang leaders that time?” said Batu.

[Translation: The Maharlika Investment Fund has an inter-generational significance. This will not only operate during our generation. We anticipate that it will also operate in our children and grandchildren’s future. At that time, will there still be Marcoses or will leaders at that time be different?]

The House of Representatives approved the controversial bill after President Bongbong Marcos certified it as urgent.

READ: House approves Maharlika Investment Fund bill 

What is expected in the Senate?

Batu said lawmakers should ensure transparency in the process to prevent misuse, particularly on where the money would be invested.

But he added that there should be a balance between transparency and efficiency.

“'Pag linagyan din ng masyadong maraming constraints, baka ang mangyari magkaroon din ng inefficiency na baka dahil sa tagal ng clearance bago ka makabili ng investment ay nawala na ang opportunity, nag-iba na ang presyo the next day,” Batu said.

[Translation: Too many constraints may bring about inefficiency. You might lose your opportunity to invest while waiting for clearance, since prices may be different the next day.]

He said financial investment statements regarding the Maharlika Investment Fund should be readily available on a website.

Batu also said the law should be clear on the board members’ tenure and salary and its measures when replacing a board member.