Makabayan bloc wants Maharlika fund bill certification declared as unconstitutional


Posted at Feb 13 2023 07:51 PM | Updated as of Feb 14 2023 09:38 AM

MANILA (UPDATE) — The Makabayan bloc at the House of Representatives on Monday filed a petition at the Supreme Court seeking to declare the presidential certification of the Maharlika Investment Fund Bill as unconstitutional and invalid.

The progressive lawmakers are also questioning the House of Representatives' passing of the bill on final reading.

According to the petitioners, there was no public emergency or calamity that would warrant a certification of urgency for the said bill.

"The petitioners assert that there has been a long history of abuse of the presidential power to certify proposed legislation as urgent, despite the absence of a 'public emergency or calamity' as mandated by the 1987 Constitution, by several past administrations and even by the present Marcos Jr. government. This trend must come to an end," the Makabayan bloc said in a statement.

According to the 1987 Constitution, a proposed bill must pass through three separate readings on three separate days to become a law, unless the President certifies the urgency of the said bill to address a public emergency or calamity.

"As this power is an exception to the constitutional rule, it must be strictly interpreted in favor of the rule. Presidential certification of urgency must only be used in exceptional situations where a public emergency or calamity requires the immediate passage of a law," the Makabayan bloc explained.

"The petitioners are not asking for the President to be powerless in the face of public emergencies or calamities. Rather, they are seeking for the exercise of a power that would infringe on the constitutional duties and processes of Congress to be exercised only when a clearly defined emergency or calamity requires the curtailment of these processes," they added.

The Makabayan bloc also noted that the bill was only certified as urgent in the House of Representatives, but not in the Senate, adding that doing so "discredits the President's claim of a need for the 'immediate enactment' of the Maharlika bill, as it demonstrates the absence of a public emergency or calamity that would trigger the exception under Article VI, Section 26 (2) of the Constitution."

In the petition, the Makabayan bloc also pointed out how the bill, which was heavily amended in the second reading, was passed on third reading only after a few hours.

Among the petitioners are Gabriela Women's Party Representative Arlene Brosas, ACT Teachers Partylist Representative France Castro, Kabataan Partylist Representative Raoul Manuel, Carlos Zarate, executive vice-president of Bayan Muna Party-list, and Neri Colmenares, Bayan Muna Party-list chairperson.

President Ferdinand Marcos Jr., Executive Secretary Lucas Bersamin, and the House of Representatives, represented by House Speaker Ferdinand Martin Romualdez, were listed as respondents. 

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In an ANC interview Tuesday, Colmenares alleged the controversial measure was railroaded when it hurdled the third and final reading less than a month since it was filed in the lower chamber in late November last year.

"Why short circuit the House? Why don't you allow the opposition, those who are questioning it, those who are deliberating it, studying it to have their chance?" he told "Rundown".

Colmenares said the country's chief executive couldn't also abuse in issuing presidential certifications.

"When we signed the petition, we are not alleging taking away the power of the President to certify a bill urgent. We are just saying that you can't do this in any whimsical manner," he said.

The House of Representatives passed the Maharlika Investment Fund bill on third and final reading last December, after Marcos Jr. certified the measure's "necessity." 

In late January, Senator Mark Villar filed a version of the bill creating the Maharlika Investment Fund (MIF).

The Senate must pass a counterpart bill for the measure to become law.

The proposed sovereign wealth fund aims to raise capital for big-ticket development projects.


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