Senate minority rules out support for current version of Maharlika fund bill: Pimentel

Sherrie Ann Torres, ABS-CBN News

Posted at Feb 02 2023 06:52 PM

MANILA — Senate Minority Leader Aquilino “Koko” Pimentel III ruled out Thursday his group’s support for the proposed Maharlika Investment Fund.

Pimentel made the statement a day after the Senate committee on banks, financial institutions and currencies held its first public hearing on the proposed sovereign wealth fund. 

“Habang sa hindi s'ya (bill) klaro, habang sa litong-lito pa yung panukala, imposible po sa ngayon [na suportahan namin]… What is the purpose of using governmental power for investment purposes and assist a corporation, maximize its profit by exempting it from all the rules and taxes,” Pimentel said.

(While it remains unclear, while the bill is still confusing, it is impossible for us to support it.)

“We cannot justify the unjustifiable. There must be condition precedent bago po mangyari ito. Ano yun? We must have surplus, windfall, excess of money,” he added. 

(There must be condition precedent before this could happen. What's that? We must have surplus of funds.) 

Pimentel also questioned what motivated the government to push for the MIF, considering that it was never mentioned during the 2022 presidential campaign period or the first State of the Nation Address (SONA). 

It was also missing from the Medium-Term Fiscal Framework and the list of bills that Marcos presented during the Legislative-Executive Development Advisory Council (LEDAC) meeting, said the senator. 

“San s'ya galing? Tanungin natin ang mga proponents, bakit bigla nyo tong naisip, saan ba to galing?” Pimentel pointed out. 

(Where did it come from? Let's ask the proponents, why did you suddenly think of this?) 

Pimentel said he also hoped that no procedural issue would crop up during Senate deliberations on the bill. Any violation of the Senate’s procedural rules will prompt the minority bloc raise the issue before the Supreme Court, he said.

“But definitely sa current version, sa concept po nitong Maharlika Investment Fund na exempted s'ya sa halos lahat ng rules, safeguard rules pa naman ito, sa tingin ko eh, vulnerable na ito sa atake na ito ay violative ng equal protection clause ng constitution,” he said.

“Yung ibang businesses kailangan ng permit, withholding tax, income tax, lahat. Tapos si gobyerno magtatayo ng korporasyon na papasok din sa negosyo, pero exempted sa lahat. Is that fair? ...Is that a legitimate governmental function?,” he added.

(The concept of the Maharlika Investment Fund is it's exempted from almost all rules, and these are safeguard rules, I think this is vulnerable t attacks that this is violative of the equal protection clause of the constitution. Other business need permits, withholding tax, income tax. But the government would set up its own corporation and get exempted. Is that fair?)

President Ferdinand Marcos Jr. has called for a swift passage of the proposal, filed by his son and a cousin in the House of Representatives, to enable the debt-laden government to earn extra funds to finance huge infrastructure projects. 

The House passed the proposal in December. The Senate must pass a counterpart bill for the measure to become law.

— With a report from Agence France-Presse

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