September 23, 2023


In the past two weeks, stakeholders in the Cordillera were organized by the Department of the Interior and Local Government for two editions of a town hall meeting-like discussion called dagyaw, a Hiligaynon term for bayanihan, anchored on the theme “Fostering Multi-Sectoral Convergence through Social Accountability” and aimed to build mutual trust between the government and the people.
The DILG has explained the program is a platform to inform the people of the current administration’s plans, programs, and priorities to empower civil society organizations through the co-creation process and to expand the DILG’s network of development sector.
We laud having such government and people interaction, as it gives off a sense of having a bull session among involved parties without atrocities, but instead done in a constructive and consultative way.
Whether the initiative will bring improvements in public service, especially at this time the country is striving to escape from the dire economic impacts of the Covid-19 pandemic, remains to be seen.
We remain hopeful.
This local initiative of cultivating social accountability therefore has allowed us to temper a growing doubt on the intentions of the current administration in attempting to tap into the funds of two government offices that manage insurance and pension funds of workers in a bid to mount a whopping P275-billion maharlika or sovereign wealth fund, a grand plan where the government intends to invest in big-ticket national development projects and other assets.
We welcome the prompt backtracking by its proponents in Congress, who admitted to have started on wrong foot and decided to exclude the Social Security System and the Government Service Insurance System coffers from the controversial plan, and instead use profits of the Bangko Sentral ng Pilipinas, among other government assets to be tapped.
The decision, according to one of the authors of the bill, came after House leaders met with economic managers to reevaluate the proposal, and through said public consultation, concerns – of workers from whose pay checks monthly SSS and GSIS contributions are deducted– are said to have been validated.
In this, we see the spirit of dagyaw, and though we cannot be sure it is what has motivated them to take their hands off from GSIS and SSS funds, we are relieved the proponents actually listened and considered the concerns and criticisms that the plan puts the pensioners to higher risks without strong management safeguards.
But we cannot believe the audacity of just thinking of using workers’ private monies intended to secure their privilege to make multipurpose loans and their benefits upon retirement after years of working in the government and in the private sector.
How can we imagine openly putting at risk people’s funds by using it in speculative undertakings?
We were thinking, what could the government have been thinking in making such proposal when the country has yet to succeed in getting rid of government corruption?
As pointed out by a University of the Philippines Los Baños Economics professor, we all know about our history of “fund mismanagement and scandals”, such as the Coco Levy and PhilHealth fund scandals, SSS funds reportedly being used for politically-tainted stock purchases, and cases of misuse involving the then pork barrel now called Priority Development Assistance Fund.
But while the plan cries of potential avenues for corruption in most of its aspects, we still want to believe the current administration has the best intentions in mind for the country in proposing having a seed capital for investments.
But it would take more than just convincing, even with the assurance there would be safeguards and such undertaking has been adopted successfully in other countries.
To our leaders, we suggest cleansing the government system and removing every iota and doubt of corruption first, to get stakeholders to consider the plan positively in the discussion table. Who knows, we may be able to raise more than enough for the sovereign wealth fund without tapping other funds once we stem the flow of resources towards the pockets of a few.