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OFFLINE: The Senate may commit its biggest mistake ever

The Philippine Senate headed by Senate President Migz Zubiri may well commit its biggest mistake of all.

Zubiri has all but committed to pass the Senate version of the bill creating the Maharlika Investment Fund. Steamroller would be the more apt description of his planned action, and he simply refuses to recognize the serious shortcomings of the bill sponsored by a neophyte senator whose only claim to fame is being the son of one of the richest men in the country, and whose mother is a senator like him.

Mark Villar may be a literal babe in the woods, one who still has his mother’s milk in his mouth. But what’s Zubiri’s excuse? He’s been a senator long enough, and he should know that he need not kowtow to the whims of Bongbong Marcos. Not unless he wants to seek the biggest prize of all. Not just the Senate presidency, but the Philippine presidency.

This early, with Marcos still having five years left in his presidency, there’s already talk of the next presidential elections, and that talk centers on two  probable candidates, current vice president Sara Duterte, and House Speaker Ferdinand Martin Romualdez.

The so-called analysts are conveniently ignoring Zubiri, but the current Senate prez can mount a serious bid to be the next Malacanang occupant on one condition. He has to fully understand that the legislative branch of government is co-equal to the executive as well as the judicial branches of government.

A Senate president should look upon himself as an equal of the president.

As such, Zubiri should listen, and listen very carefully, to the arguments presented by two senators who belong to the majority. His majority.

Where the Maharlika bill is concerned, minority leader Koko Pimentel has been fighting the good fight to try and block the bill. Thankfully, two majority senators – Chiz Escudero and Sherwin Gatchalian – have also raised concerns about Zubiri’s promise to fast-track the bill.

Bongbong Marcos, it seems, wants the bill passed before he delivers his second State of the Nation Address in early July.

Pimentel is being supported in his opposition to the bill by the only other minority senator, Risa Hontiveros. For some reason, even Imee Marcos has raised her own doubts about the Senate version of the bill, but this is very likely all for show.

As for sibling senators Alan Peter and Pia Cayetano, there’s no telling where they stand. The pair should be part of the majority, but proclaimed themselves independents allied with the majority after Alan Peter’s desire to head the powerful Blue Ribbon committee was denied by Zubiri.

So Mr. Senate President who could yet be Philippine president should stand his ground and give a listen to Gatchalian and Escudero, who at the very least are saying that the upper chamber of the bicameral Congress should at the very least take the time to review all the provisions of the bill.

They may not agree with Pimentel that the bill will cause nothing but “pure misery” for the Philippines, but the lawmaker named Koko has raised the possibility that it goes against the Constitution.

Specifically, in certifying it as urgent, Bongbong Marcos has forgotten –or conveniently ignored – the charter that mandates that a bill may be certified as urgent “if it seeks to address a national emergency or a calamity.”

From where I sit, the only calamity I see is the second Marcos presidency, whose legitimacy remains under a cloud of doubt.

The Maharlika Investment Fund as it will be called will only be felt in five to ten years, according to the Senate version. This therefore states quite plainly that there is no national emergency, except maybe the ones in Bongbong’s mind.

It is not only its opponents in the House and the Senate who have raised the fact that the country does not have the surplus wealth that can be placed in the proposed fund.

The country, any country in fact, can only have surplus wealth if it does not operate year after year on budget deficit.

Imagine a household where the joint income of a husband and wife is, say, $3,000 a month, or $36,000 a year. This Mr. and Mrs. now want to set up a fund worth $300,000. Where will they get the money from? Why from borrowings, of course.

They cite as their model their very rich neighbor whose annual joint income is $1,000,000 and who have been saving their earnings for many years in such places as bonds, stocks, time deposits, etc. They then pooled all of their resources into a wealth fund, which when invested anywhere will earn more simply because the absolute amount is quite large.

So many times it has been shown and proven that Economics 101 was a subject that Bongbong never passed. His insistence that the Maharlika fund, which he earlier said was not a priority, is the key to economic progress for the country.

He refuses to recognize that he is the Mister of the household earning only $36,000 per annum.

The majority senators are not even fully supporting Pimentel, but only asking that time be spent poring over all of its provisions.

As has been stated by its opponents, there is no guarantee that the damn fund will succeed. What if it fails? Will anyone be answerable to a failed Maharlika Investment Fund?

The answer is a big, fat no.

Since billions of dollars, ergo hundreds of billions of pesos, will be involved, it can be placed in huge investments that may eventually fail. By then, the government-appointed Board of Directors will be laughing all the way to their Swiss bank accounts, which is where they will almost definitely plunk in their mega paychecks.

Even Imee Marcos’ claim that she was nervous about the bill is worth noting. The country is still very much mired in debt, she points out, and she is unfortunately completely correct.

Koko Pimentel may be exaggerating when he says that the current version of the bill is unsalvageable, but Zubiri should at least listen to Escudero and Gatchalian. And yes, the smarter Marcos named Imee, too.

My last piece of advice to Migz Zubiri? Don’t be Bongbong’s lackey, sir. Be a man. Be a real Senate president. Do not ram that Maharlika bill down our collective throats, ok?