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[OPINION] Jason, Moira, and the Maharlika Wealth Fund

By Joel Pablo Salud Published May 31, 2023 4:19 pm

There is something about my fellow Pinoys that leads some to believe that there are people born to be duped, conned, hoodwinked, and cheated out of the good things in life.

As one of my favorite humorists would have said, they are “easy meat” to backstreet philosophers, prosperity gospel preachers, online-selling conmen, malodorous pyramid scammers, and may I add, to the old political false prophets garbed in expensive Louis Vuitton. 

Take for example the days prior to the Senate’s landslide approval of the Maharlika Wealth Fund. It garnered 19 yes votes and only one negative vote, thanks to Risa Hontiveros. Playing hooky were Imee Marcos, Koko Pimentel, and Francis Escudero. I don’t blame them at all, not after Netflix decided to run the Black Spot series in its second season. Nancy Binay, on the other hand, abstained. 

The days prior to my making a blacklist of all who voted yes, my Facebook newsfeed was crammed with posts relating to the Jason-Moira split. TBH, it has a lot in common with the controversies surrounding the Maharlika Wealth Fund, that is, if you think of love as currency. 

The Maharlika Investment Fund Bill garnered 19 yes votes and only one negative vote from the Senate.

Remember the 1Malaysia Development Berhad or 1MDB? A whopping $4.5 billion (P253 billion) was said to have been laundered and embezzled—in fact, stolen, for lack of a better weasel word—which led to outstanding debts amounting to $7.8 billion (P438 billion). 

Now think of love as the currency that has been laundered and embezzled due to lack of transparency between the government and the governed. Makes a lot of freaking sense, doesn’t it?

Relationships thrive, relationships fail. Fact of life right there. While some wealth funds garnered success through the years, those that crashed and burned failed miserably to the extent that it’s well-nigh unsalvageable. 

The same is true with relationships. In speakeasy terms, it all boils down to transparency, which is a fancy term for the honesty no relationship can do without. See, this is where the rubber meets the dirt road. 

The thing with love and money is that they share one common flaw: One can always say 'It failed. The investments crashed and burned. What can we do?'

The government’s insistence to pass the Maharlika Bill into law is no different from a lover’s promise that you can trust him come mortgage or mother-in-law. 

The question is: Can we? Should we? 

In Transparency International’s 2022 Corruption Index, the Philippines ranked 116 out of 180 countries—just a hop above Zambia and Ukraine. Reports also say that an estimated P700 billion to P1 trillion of the national budget are lost to corruption each year.

Creating a wealth fund must, in theory and practice, come from surplus revenue. The problem with this is that figures from the Bureau of Treasury seem to throw a monkey wrench on the positive optics they are trying to shape out of nothing. 

The Philippine STAR reported towards the end of the first quarter this year that the country has a P1.6 trillion budget deficit in 2022. On this matter alone, we can safely conclude that putting up a national wealth fund is all about optics, which is another euphemism for a big fat lie. Appearing rich when we’re dirt poor—how does that work in real-time return on investments? 

Think about it for a minute: With such an unbelievably huge deficit, love being the prime currency in a relationship, do you think anyone would like to forgive and go back, to relive the experience, for sweet old time’s sake?

You’re a sucker if you do. 

The thing with love and money is that they share one common flaw: One can always say “It failed. The investments crashed and burned. What can we do?” 

We can holler and post on social media all we want, but the money would’ve been long gone by then. Who took it? Hell, who knows? No one would be bold enough to admit a crime. 

Worse is that we are left with nothing more than the nagging guilt of believing a promise that was meant to be broken from the start. 

Trust. Honesty. Accountability. These are the baseline issues that surround all relationships—between government and governed, and may I add, between Jason and Moira. If you cannot trust your boat to keep you above the waves, then the only choice left for us is to swim in shark-infested waters. 

And may I remind you: Six years is a long time to paddle.