MANILA — Finance Secretary Benjamin Diokno on Tuesday said the search for executives who will manage the Maharlika Investment Corporation continues despite a petition at the the Supreme Court questioning its constitutionality.
Diokno said they would respond to the petition "at the right time, in the right place," as the Solicitor-General is already studying the matter.
"Yung mga ni-raise nilang issue ay na-raise na during deliberation. Tinititingnan na lang natin... To be frank, hindi ko pa nababasa yung petition nila, that will give us time muna... tapos pag-aaralan natin," Diokno said over Radyo 630.
"Sasagot naman tayo at the right time," he added.
The Maharlika Investment Fund is on the road to being operational, he said, with the Land Bank of the Philippines remitting P50 billion to the corporation.
The Development Bank of the Philippines and the Bangko Sentral ng Pilipinas were set to provide P25 billion and P32 billion, respectively.
The law requires Land Bank and the national government to contribute P50 billion each to the MIF. The Development Bank of the Philippines will put in another P25 billion.
"In fact, at this time, nag-oorganize na kami, we are recruiting people na mag tatao sa maharlika investment corporation. We will not wait for the petition," he added.
"Actually, nag-iikot din kami sa buong mundo. In fact kakagaling lang namin sa Middle East para maengganyo na mag-invest sa Maharlika Investment."
The Maharlika Investment Corporation needs a president and CEO, two regular directors and three independent directors, according to its implementing rules and regulations.
The finance chief is the chairman of Maharlika's board of directors.
National Treasurer Rosalia De Leon had said there were no applications yet for the posts, but she noted that there had been a couple of inquiries.
The deadline for applications is on Sept. 27.
The finance chief reiterated that investments in the Maharlika will be used to fund the administration's nearly 200 flagship infrastructure projects.
House Speaker Martin Romualdez, for his part, maintained that the Maharlika Investment Fund was passed into law "within the bounds of the Constitution" amid questions on its constitutionality.
"It is not uncommon for bills to undergo changes as they pass through the legislative mill, but we ensure these are done within the bounds of our Constitution and established procedures." Romualdez said in a statement.
"The Maharlika Investment Fund Act was passed with the intention to drive economic growth, address poverty, and create job opportunities for Filipinos. The certification of the bill as urgent was determined with this vision in mind," Romualdez added.
The Speaker said he respects the rights of the petitioners as he trusts in the court to see things their way.
He added that they would leave the decision to the Supreme Court.
"We are prepared to cooperate fully with the Court and to provide any necessary clarifications," he said.
Marcos had called for a swift passage of the Maharlika bill, filed by his son and cousin late last year, to enable the debt-laden government to earn extra funds to finance infrastructure projects.
Activists and opposition figures have questioned the need for a sovereign wealth fund in the poverty-plagued country and raised concerns about the potential for corruption.
Business groups said the government was already running huge budget deficits and the proposed law risked downgrading its credit rating.
Conventional sovereign wealth funds are seeded by windfall government profits from natural resources, such as oil or minerals.
— With reports from RG Cruz, ABS-CBN News; Agence France-Presse