Solons hit Diokno statement on possible GSIS, SSS participation in Maharlika projects

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Metro Manila (CNN Philippines, June 5) — Two senators criticized Finance Secretary Benjamin Diokno’s recent statement that state pension funds may still be used to finance some projects of the Maharlika Investment Corporation (MIC).

In a statement Monday, Senate Majority Leader Joel Villanueva said there should be “no room for interpretation” on the issue. He said the proposed bill was “very clear” that government agencies and government-owned or controlled corporations involved in providing social security and health insurance to Filipinos are banned from investing in the MIC and the Maharlika Investment Fund (MIF).

Villanueva said the prohibition was “repeated three times” in the measure.

“We trust that the IRR (implementing rules and regulations) will be faithful to the bill that we passed and to the numerous manifestations and statements of support from this representation and our colleagues on this issue,” he said.

The bill is now awaiting President Ferdinand Marcos Jr.’s signature after the House of Representatives adopted the Senate’s final version.

READ: Senate bars investment of state pension funds in Maharlika, okays key changes in bill's final version

During a recent chat with reporters, Diokno said the Government Service Insurance System (GSIS) and Social Security System (SSS) may opt to “subscribe” to a project of MIC if a high return is possible.

“They can do it sa project, but not equity,” he said, with National Treasurer Rosalia de Leon sharing similar sentiment.

Just like Villanueva, Senate Minority Leader Koko Pimentel rejected this idea.

He claimed Diokno’s approach was a “play on words.”

“They are avoiding the words used in the law like initial capital, additional capital, bonds,” he said.

“If they say “subscribe to projects, ano ibig sabihin nun? (What does that mean?) GSIS and SSS will “finance” the projects? Financing means advancing the money needed. Isn’t that plain and simple “lending” or “loaning money” to the project? Just like buying a bond from Maharlika Corp. the same thing. Circumvention in effect,” Pimentel said.

The opposition senator said government must not touch SSS and GSIS funds because these are the private funds of members.

Marcos also said last week that state pension funds will not be tapped as a source of capital for the MIF. But he added, "If the pension fund decides that the Maharlika fund is a good investment, it's up to them if they want to invest in it."