Speaker stands by Maharlika, but will cooperate with SC

Delon Porcalla - The Philippine Star
Speaker stands by Maharlika, but will cooperate with SC
House Speaker Martin Romualdez on July 24, 2023.
STAR / KJ Rosales

MANILA, Philippines — Speaker Martin Romualdez yesterday stood by the constitutionality of the Maharlika Investment Fund Act of 2023 after lawmakers asked the Supreme Court (SC) to void and stop the implementation of the MIF Law.

Even as he defended the MIF Law or Republic Act 11954, Romualdez said the House of Representatives would fully cooperate with the SC if changes or amendments are needed to implement the law.

“We trust the wisdom of the SC to evaluate the merits of the petition and to arrive at a fair decision. We are willing to cooperate with the high court and provide the necessary clarifications,” he said in a statement.

The petitioners urged the SC to declare the MIF unconstitutional, saying the passage of the law “bypassed” the constitutionally mandated legislative process.

“We respect the democratic process and the right of every individual to seek legal redress,” Romualdez added.

He said the House, under his leadership, has always prioritized the observance of legislative procedures and adherence to the 1987 Constitution.

“The MIF Law was passed with the intention to drive economic growth, address poverty and create jobs for the Filipinos. The certification of the bill as urgent was determined with this vision in mind,” he said.

Romualdez stressed that amendments to bills are common as they pass through the legislative mill, but “we ensure these are done within the bounds of our Constitution and established procedures.”

“In these times, it is more crucial than ever that we focus on what will benefit the Filipino people,” he said.

P50 billion from Landbank

Senate Minority Leader Aquilino Pimentel III, who was among the petitioners, questioned the reported release of P50 billion by the Land Bank of the Philippines for the MIF.

Pimentel described as “good timing” the filing of the petition before the SC.

“I have read reports that there is another P25 billion in investment from DBP (Development Bank of the Philippines). So we will ask DBP if they have released money for the contribution,” Pimentel said.

He said the Land Bank reportedly remitted to the Bureau of the Treasury (BTr) its P50-billion contribution to the Maharlika Investment Corp. even if the MIC has not been formed.

“Where is the list of their expenses? There should be a list of investment, salaries and operating expenses. What are the expenses? There is none, and yet we have already released a lot of money,” Pimentel noted.

“The corporation might not have a bank account yet, that’s why the money was given to the BTr,” he added.

Pimentel said they asked the SC to declare the MIF Law unconstitutional as the processes and requirements stated in the Constitution were not followed.

He added that the independence of the Bangko Sentral ng Pilipinas was ignored because the law stated that the BSP would also be a source of money.

“First, our Constitution says that before the law, it must be read three times on three separate days. The version that was signed by the President is not the one that was passed by Congress,” Pimentel said.

The MIF version approved by the Senate, which was adopted by the House of Representatives, had errors in Sections 50 and 51, which contained conflicting prescription periods. Section 50 provides a prescription period of 10 years while Section 51 provides 20 years.

Finance Secretary Benjamin Diokno, one of the respondents, said they would answer the SC petition “at the right time, in the right place.”

“The issues the petitioners raised are the same ones they raised during the deliberations [in Congress]. We will see,” Diokno said.

He said he has yet to read the petition filed by Pimentel, Bayan Muna chairman Neri Colmenares and former Bayan Muna representatives Carlos Zarate and Ferdinand Gaite.

Despite the petition, Diokno maintained that the government has started the ball rolling on the MIF following the remittance of a combined P75-billion contribution by the Land Bank and DBP.

“We are also organizing and recruiting people for the MIC. We will not wait for the SC decision on the petition,” he said. — Cecille Suerte Felipe, Louise Maureen Simeon

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