Senate minority fails to pry Maharlika fund from Mark Villar's committee

Xave Gregorio - Philstar.com
Senate minority fails to pry Maharlika fund from Mark Villar's committee
Sen. Mark Villar speaks during a Senate hearing on January 12, 2023.
Voltaire F. Domingo / Senate PRIB

MANILA, Philippines — The two-member Senate minority bloc was overwhelmed Wednesday by the majority as their bid to remove the bills that seek to create the Maharlika Investment Fund from Sen. Mark Villar’s panel failed.

Voting in plenary, 19 senators rejected Senate Minority Leader Aquilino Pimentel III’s motion to change the referral of Senate Bill No. 1670 and House Bill No. 6608 from the Committee on Banks, Financial Institutions and Currencies chaired by Villar to the Committee on Government Corporations and Public Enterprises chaired by Sen. Alan Peter Cayetano.

Only Pimentel and Deputy Senate Minority Leader Risa Hontiveros voted in favor of the motion, while Sen. Pia Cayetano, sister of the other Sen. Cayetano, abstained.

Explaining her abstention, Sen. Pia said her brother did not tell her how to vote on the motion.

“I don’t know if he will be angered if I would add to his job or if he will be angered if I didn't give it to him, so I just abstained, Mr. Chairman,” Sen. Pia said in Filipino.

Government corporation

The chairperson of the primary committee where a bill is referred to schedules hearings, calls resource persons and drafts committee reports.

Villar, who authored Senate Bill No. 1670, is a close ally of President Ferdinand Marcos Jr. Marcos has backed the creation of the Maharlika fund and even certified as urgent the House bill that seeks to establish it.

Pimentel argued the Senate was wrong to refer the Maharlika fund bills to Villar’s committee as he said these seek to create a government corporation and had nothing to do with banks, financial institutions or currencies.

“This is the position of this representation, that those bills are better referred to the Committee on Government Corporations and Public Enterprises because they, no doubt, seek to establish a government corporation,” Pimentel said.

The identical Senate and House bills on the Maharlika fund seek to establish both the fund and the Maharlika Investment Corp. which would be in charge of governing and managing the fund.

But Senate President Juan Miguel Zubiri disagreed with Pimentel and argued that what is being primarily established is the Maharlika fund, which is why he said the bills were better referred to the banks panel.

“Government corporations [committee] will be more or less if we create a new GOCC and create a charter. We’re not creating a charter in this Maharlika Investment Fund,” Zubiri said.

Senate rules showdown

Section 13(5) of the Senate rules states that the banks committee tackles “all matters relating to banks, financial institutions, government and private currencies, capital markets, mutual funds, securitization, coinage and circulation of money.”

Meanwhile, Section 13(20) of the Senate rules states that the government corporations committee tackles “all questions affecting government corporations, including all amendments to their charters; the interests of the government in the different industrial commercial enterprises; privatization.”

To bolster Zubiri’s arguments, Senate Majority Leader Joel Villanueva cited certain provisions of the Maharlika fund bill and the Senate rules which he said suggested that it should be referred to the banks panel.

But Pimentel said the provisions that Villanueva cited are proof that the bill seeks to create a new government corporation.

“Because we cannot have a fund, there is no manager of the fund. It’s the corporation that manages the fund,” Pimentel said.

Zubiri doubled down on his argument and said that “the establishment of the fund is the primordial concern.”

“I would see your argument, your honor, Minority Floor Leader, if the primordial concern was creating the corporation and then later on under its subsection, sourcing of funds and what to do with the funds. But no eh, as it is, the bill is the creation of the wealth fund,” Zubiri said.

Citing the Senate rules defining the functions of the government corporations panel, Sen. Francis Tolentino said it appears that “there should be an existing government corporation and questions affecting the said existing government corporation would be part of the jurisdiction of the said committee, including amendments to their charters.”

“In this case, Mr. President, there is no government corporation in existence which would handle the Maharlika Investment Fund. No amendments to a government corporation in existence would be under the jurisdiction of the committee,” Tolentino said.

‘Nothing to do with chair’

After Pimentel’s motion was defeated, Sen. Pia said any senator would have been qualified to hear the Maharlika fund bills.

“I would like to believe that any chairman of this august chamber that would hear it would hear it giving everybody their due time to get into the matter,” Sen. Pia said.

This was echoed by Zubiri who said: “Any one of you here are capable chairpersons. Any one of you here can hear this bill, I’m sure, with professionalism and dedication. Nothing to do with the chairman.”

vuukle comment










  • Latest
  • Trending
Are you sure you want to log out?

Philstar.com is one of the most vibrant, opinionated, discerning communities of readers on cyberspace. With your meaningful insights, help shape the stories that can shape the country. Sign up now!

Get Updated:

Signup for the News Round now

or sign in with