Congress railroads MIF, MROTC bills

This article is available in PilipinoBisaya

The Marcos regime’s henchmen in the Lower House railroaded the Maharlika Investment Fund (MIF) and Mandatory ROTC bills (passed as the National Citizens Service Training Program Act or NCSTP) on Congress’ last day for the year on December 15. “Deliberations” were dispensed with after Ferdinand Marcos Jr. certified both bills as urgent. The bills have no corresponding proposals in the Senate.

Marcos Jr’s relatives (son, cousin and his wife) submitted the bill to create the MIF (House Bill 6398) on November 28, with the support of the regime’s “economic supervisors.” The proposal was criticized because of its initial plan to use the hard-earned pensions deposited in the GSIS and SSS as seed fund. Workers and government employees and their representatives in Congress led the opposition. Academics renounced the plan, and even neoliberal economists and entrepreneurs raised concerns.

Everyone understood that the MIF will only serve as a milking cow for the Marcos family, their business cronies and lackeys in Congress. The Marcoses are known throughout the world as looters and thieves of public funds. They are salivating over the initial estimated ₱275 billion in seed funding and ₱618 billion possible funds it can raise in the following years.

Due to the criticisms, the GSIS and SSS were removed from the list of sources of funds, and the remaining ₱110 billion will be taken from the Landbank of the Philippines and the Development Bank of the Philippines. It was also reported that the regime will sell eight public properties, including Basay Mining with mineral reserves worth ₱102.8 billion. It also intends to use revenues from casinos, highways and airports.

It is clear that the Philippines does not have any “surplus funds.” Its financial deficit is at its historic highs and its debt is gigantic. Even neoliberalists pointed out that global conditions for such a fund is dire. In fact, the “sovereign wealth funds” of countries that truly have “excess funds” such as Taiwan, Singapore and Norway are suffering because of the severe crisis that is affecting the global capitalist system.

In the Philippines, “sovereign funds” and similar funds have become synonymous with corruption. These include the funds created by Marcos Jr’s father in the 1970s that became the milking cow of his family and cronies. An example of this is the coco levy fund that was established to forcibly collect the meager income of small coconut farmers. In other countries, the prime minister of Malaysia was recently convicted of graft and money laundering for using the country’s sovereign fund as a personal bank.

Deaf to all objections, the bill was passed by a vote of 279-6 only after 18 days. Apart from the three representatives of Makabayan, only two representatives from Bicol and one from Basilan voted against it.

Congress also passed the NCSTP (House Bill 6486) on the same day, after 27 separate measures were consolidated to restore the mandatory military training of youth (Reserved Officers Training Course or ROTC.) According to youth groups, the bill includes even worse provisision compared to the earlier versions they opposed. The fascist Armed Forces of the Philippines will directly oversee the trainings, which could last for two years. This will militarize campuses, which violates academic freedom. It also violates students’ rights who will be forced to train even if they are still minors. According to the students, NCSTP/MROTC is an added burden and hardship as it will entail added tuition and material costs.

In addition to the two bills, there are currently eight proposals to amend the constitution through Constitutional Convention lined up in Congress. These aim to allow foreign ownership of local businesses. Due to the proactive vigilance of the opposition, the next hearing for this was postponed to January 26, 2023.

Congress railroads MIF, MROTC bills