With Marcos certification, House hastily approves Maharlika Investment Fund

Xave Gregorio - Philstar.com
With Marcos certification, House hastily approves Maharlika Investment Fund
President Ferdinand Marcos Jr delivers his first State of the Nation address at the House of Representatives in Quezon City on July 25, 2022.
Aaron Favila via AFP / pool

MANILA, Philippines — Voting 279-6, the House of Representatives overwhelmingly and hastily approved on Thursday the bill that seeks to create the controversial Maharlika Investment Fund after President Ferdinand Marcos Jr. certified it as urgent.

Only Reps. Gabriel Bordado (Camarines Sur, 3rd District), Arlene Brosas (Gabriela party-list), France Castro (ACT Teachers party-list), Mujiv Hataman (Basilan), Edcel Lagman (Albay, 1st District) and Raoul Manuel (Kabataan party-list) voted against the measure.

Moments after the House approved the Maharlika fund bill on second reading in a voice vote, the chamber’s secretary general read out a message from Marcos certifying the measure as urgent which allowed lawmakers to bypass the constitutional rule requiring bills to be passed on three readings on separate days.

Marcos certified the bill as urgent "in order to establish a sustainable national investment fund as a strategic mechanism for strengthening the investment activities of top performing government financial institutions, and thus pump-prime economic growth and social development."

From filing to approval on third reading, it took the House just 17 days to deliberate on the Maharlika fund bill which lawmakers claimed they were not railroading.

LIST: Maharlika Investment Fund bill co-authors

“We are being set up for something,” Senate Minority Leader Aquilino Pimentel III said in reaction to Marcos certifying Maharlika as urgent. “We will try to find out when we interpellate on the Maharlika Fund bill. What is it that they really want to achieve with this measure?”

Just a day before the House’s approval of the MIF, Finance Secretary Benjamin Diokno urged Marcos to certify the bill as urgent despite public backlash, with some of the loudest criticisms coming from businesses, academics and civil society.

A mix of public funds and dividends from the Bangko Sentral ng Pilipinas will be used as seed money for the MIF, based on the current iteration. 

Widespread criticism of the planned inclusion of retirement funds tended by the Government Service Insurance System and Social Security System led to its removal from the seed money.

On the House floor, an amendment introduced by Rep. France Castro (ACT Teachers party-list) to prohibit the GSIS and SSS from ever contributing to Maharlika was accepted.

Rep. Joey Salceda, who chaired the technical working group that oversaw multiple changes to the bill, said the measure went through “at least seven rounds of revisions” in his panel alone.

“Of course, the debate does not end here,” Salceda said in a statement. “I will continue to work with counterparts in the Senate to improve this measure or explain the proposal better.”

Senate President Juan Miguel Zubiri told reporters Monday that they will be waiting for the final iteration of the bill from the House before they conduct any debates on the matter.

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