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VERA FILES FACT CHECK: Arroyo, Marcos claim that Bam Aquino proposed ‘same’ sovereign wealth fund bill needs context

Former senator Bam Aquino was the originally proponent of a sovereign wealth fund similar to the Maharlika Wealth Fund recently proposed by House Speaker Martin Romualdez and Rep. Sandro Marcos.

Sandro Marcos and Gloria Arroyo 2022-12-05 Needs context

Si Bam Aquino, pinsan ng yumaong pangulong Benigno Aquino III, ay naghain nga ng panukalang batas na lumilikha ng sovereign wealth fund. Gayunpaman, nakasaad sa panukalang batas ni Aquino na ang pagpopondo para sa SWF ay magmumula sa General Appropriations Act. Ang panukalang batas ni Ejercito na inihain noong 2018 ay may katulad na probisyon tungkol sa pondo.
Sa kabilang banda, iminungkahi ng Maharlika Wealth Fund na co-authored nina House Speaker Martin Romualdez at Sandro Marcos na ang inisyal na capitalization ay kukunin sa investible funds ng GSIS (P125 billion), SSS (P50 billion), LBP (P50 billion), at DBP (P25 bilyon).

Defending the proposed creation of the Maharlika Wealth Fund, former president Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo and Ilocos Norte Rep. Sandro Marcos pointed to former senator Benigno “Bam” Aquino IV as the original proponent of a similar measure in 2016. This needs context.

STATEMENT

In a statement on Dec. 5, Arroyo, currently a senior deputy speaker at the House of Representatives, said:

“Sovereign Wealth Funds are not new. Singapore, for example, has had Temasek Holdings since 1974 and the Government of Singapore Investment Corporation since 1981. There are more than 20 sovereign wealth funds in the Middle East. Even in the Philippines, the idea is not new – then Senator Paolo Benigno “Bam” Aquino filed a bill to create such a fund in 2016.”

 

Source: ABS-CBN Political Correspondent RG Cruz Twitter Account, Former President/Senior Deputy Speaker…, Dec. 5, 2022; Rappler, Former president and House Senior Deputy Speaker Gloria Macapagal Arroyo defends…, Dec. 5, 2022; Philippine News Agency, READ | Statement of Senior Deputy Speaker Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo on the Maharlika Fund, Dec. 5, 2022

In a chance interview with reporters later that day, Marcos, son of President Ferdinand “Bongbong” Marcos Jr., said measures creating a sovereign wealth fund (SWF) is not an initiative under the administration of his father. 

He said:

Well, if you think about it, this isn’t a new idea. [Finance] Sec. [Benjamin] Diokno already said that they were looking at it during the time of [former president Rodrigo] Duterte. If I’m not mistaken, former Sen. Bam Aquino filed a bill in 2016 trying to do the same thing. My guess is because hindi naipasa dahil patapos na ang administrasyon ni President PNoy (it was not approved because the administration of former president Benigno Aquino was ending). I believe Sen. JV [Ejercito] also nag-file ng (filed a) bill. It’s not a new idea.”

 

Source: Inquirer.net Official Youtube Account, Sandro Marcos defends proposed Maharlika Investment Fund: It’s not a new idea, Dec. 5, 2022, watch from 0:00 to 0:28

House Bill No. 6398, also known as the Maharlika Wealth Fund, seeks to pool a total of P275 billion for the government to invest in domestic and foreign ventures. Of the amount, P25 billion will be drawn from the national government and P250 billion from government financial institutions: Government Service Insurance System (GSIS), Social Security System (SSS), Land Bank of the Philippines (LBP), and the Development Bank of the Philippines (DBP). 

FACT

Bam Aquino, a cousin of the late president Benigno Aquino III, indeed filed a bill creating a sovereign wealth fund. However, Aquino’s bill provided that funding for the SWF would come from the General Appropriations Act. Ejercito’s bill filed in 2018 had a similar funding provision. 

On the other hand, the Maharlika Wealth Fund co-authored by House Speaker Martin Romualdez and Sandro Marcos proposes that the initial capitalization be drawn from the investible funds of GSIS (P125 billion), SSS (P50 billion), LBP (P50 billion), and DBP (P25 billion).

In a statement on Dec. 5, the former senator took exception to the comparison of the Romualdez-Marcos proposal with his 2016 bill, pointing out that the capital for a sovereign welfare fund should come from a budget surplus because it runs the risk of losing. “Clearly, [funding] should not come from the workers’ pension funds,” he said.

Besides, Aquino added: 

Ibang-iba ang ekonomiya noong 2016 at ngayonmaganda ang takbo ng ekonomiya, mataas ang economic growth, mababa ang utang ng gobyerno, at mababa rin ang inflation. Ngayon, bumagal ang ekonomiya dahil sa pandemya, at mataas ang presyo ng bilihin. […]

 

May pagkakataon ang Senado na baguhin ang mga problemadong probisyon, ayusin ang timing ng batas, maglagay ng safeguard sa korapsyon at siguraduhing pabor ang batas sa nakararaming Pilipino.”

 

(The economy in 2016 and now are vastly different – the economy was running well, economic growth was high, government debt and inflation were low. Today, the growth of the economy has slowed down because of the pandemic and commodity prices are high.

 

(There is a chance for the Senate to change problematic provisions [of the bill], correct the timing of the measure, put in place safeguards against corruption, and ensure that the law will favor the majority of Filipinos.)

 

Source: Bam Aquino Official Facebook Page, Pahayag ni dating Sen. Bam Aquino sa usapin ng Sovereign Wealth Fund, Dec. 5, 2022

BACKSTORY

The proposed Maharlika Wealth Fund drew sharp criticisms from various sectors, groups and individuals in the past few days, with 12 economic policy groups calling on the government to exercise “fiscal prudence.” They raised concerns, including the prospect of the fund, through its domestic and international investments, exposing pension funds to additional market and performance risks. 

The groups said it is not appropriate to impose on GSIS and SSS members such risks on their retirement funds.

The SWF bill, filed on Nov. 28, also has the Speaker’s wife, Tingog Party-list Rep. Yedda Marie Romualdez, and Reps. Jude Acidre and Stella Luz Quimbo as co-authors.

 

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Sources

ABS-CBN Political Correspondent RG Cruz Twitter Account, Former President/Senior Deputy Speaker…, Dec. 5, 2022

Rappler, Former president and House Senior Deputy Speaker Gloria Macapagal Arroyo defends…, Dec. 5, 2022

Philippine News Agency, READ | Statement of Senior Deputy Speaker Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo on the Maharlika Fund, Dec. 5, 2022

Inquirer.net Official Youtube Account, Sandro Marcos defends proposed Maharlika Investment Fund: It’s not a new idea, Dec. 5, 2022, watch from 0:00 to 0:28

House of Representatives, House Bill No. 6398, Nov. 28, 2022

Senate of the Philippines, Senate Bill No. 1212, Oct. 19, 2016

Senate of the Philippines, Senate Bill No. 1764, March 21, 2018

Bam Aquino Official Facebook Page, Pahayag ni dating Sen. Bam Aquino sa usapin ng Sovereign Wealth Fund, Dec. 5, 2022

Foundation for Economic Freedom Official Facebook Page, JOINT STATEMENT | The Proposed Sovereign Wealth Fund: A Statement of Concern, Dec. 5, 2022

GMA News Online, Business groups voice concern over Maharlika Wealth Fund, Dec. 5, 2022 

Inquirer.net, Economists, business groups oppose Maharlika Wealth Fund bill, Dec. 5, 2022

 

(Guided by the code of principles of the International Fact-Checking Network at Poynter, VERA Files tracks the false claims, flip-flops, misleading statements of public officials and figures, and debunks them with factual evidence. Find out more about this initiative and our methodology.)