Drilon, Sotto join Pimentel's call to revert Maharlika to plenary

Sherrie Ann Torres, ABS-CBN News

Posted at Jun 08 2023 06:22 PM | Updated as of Jun 08 2023 10:19 PM

MANILA -- Two former Senate leaders strongly advised the current Senate leadership to revert the Maharlika Investment Fund Act of 2023 to the plenary and correct its supposed erroneous provisions, or face a legal challenge before the Supreme Court.

Former Senate President Franklin Drilon, in a phone interview with ABS-CBN News, said that the chamber, based on its existing rules, can recall the MIF bill and be placed in the period of amendments.

The Senate Secretariat, he said, can only address typographical issues but never the conflicting provisions, the wording, text and substance of the bill.

“Unang-una, hindi pa naman napapadala sa Malacañang. So pwede pong gumawa ng resolusyon correcting the conflicting provision, or baka pwede ring i-reconsider yung approval ng bicam (bicameral conference committee) report... Tapos ibalik sa debate or amendment at baguhin yung conflicting provision,” Drilon, a former Justice Secretary, said.

“Kung yan po ay nasa record na talagang prinopose as an amendment at tinanggap ng session, ay hindi po pupwedeng baguhin ng (Senate) Secretariat yan. Mayroong pananagutan 'pag ginawa nila yan,” he added.

The recall of the bill can either happen when session resumes in July, or if the President decides to call a special session, Drilon said.

For him, the Maharlika bill is a matter of the people's trust and confidence that the government must address accordingly.

This issue must be addressed once the appointing authority will select the right people.

“Ang dapat i-appoint are people with proper background.. Kailangan mapagkatiwalaan sang-ayon sa kanilang kwalipikasyon... (at) may kakayahan na mai-discharge ang kanilang duties,” Drrilon said.”

Drilon’s views were echoed by former Senate President Vicente Sotto III, who stressed that any certified bill by a sitting president does not obligate the Senate to act on it immediately, much more pass the proposed measure.

A defective bill, once signed by the President, poses a serious issue, Sotto said.

“Baka pirmahan ng Pangulo 'yan kung hindi siya mabigyan ng advice na 'Huwag'... 'Pag napirmahn n'ya 'yan, in a matter of days, magiging batas yan, may magtsa-challenge d'yan sa Supreme Court sigurado. Lalo lang lalakas yung pagkontra nila. 'Pag ginalaw ng Secretariat at hindi binalik sa plenary, doon pa lang, tagilid na sila sa Supreme Court,” Sotto said.

The certification of the bill, according to Sotto, only exempts the measure from the “three-day rule,” and nothing more.

He also pointed out that any certified proposed measure is not exempted from Senate scrutiny.

“Hindi ah (obligado). The certification only addresses the three-day rule. Yun lang naman ang epektado nun eh, at saka mayroong pa atang cloud hanging over it na gusto ng Presidenteng apurahin. Pero it’s not a fact. It’s just an impression... and perception,” Sotto said.

For him, the Senate’s approval of the Maharlika bill was done on a “fastbreak.”

“Masyadong maigsi yung panahon na 'yan para ma-exhaust lahat at masagot lahat yung mga kritiko. Dapat nabigyan ng pagkakataon sila sa hearing, tapos doon sa debate, sa period of interpellations. Dapat yun, nailabas lahat yun,” Sotto said.

“Hindi pwede yung isasantabi na lang 'yan, tapos da-dialogue ka ng ‘Saka na lang, sa period of amendments na lang natin pag-debatehan.’ Naku, fastbreak na tayo nun."

“Siguro kasi baka mas pinag-aralan nila' yan kaysa sa akin. Dapat nagkaroon ng study para makita yung study, 'Sige, kikita ba?' Magtatayo ka ng negosyo, meron kang feasibility study, study on ROI, impact, ano ang mapapala kung merong ganun. Okay yun. Kaya lang, mahirap gawin nang biglaan."

In a statement Thursday, Senate Minority Leader Aquilino Pimentel III maintained that the only viable course of action for Congress to fix serious errors in what he regards as the “hastily-approved” MIF is to recall its approval and bring it back to the plenary.

“Congress’s imprimatur is needed to rectify the MIF. The discrepancies and ambiguities found in the approved bill cannot be corrected without the risk of falsification of legislative documents,” said Pimentel, a former Senate President and 1990 Bar topnotcher.

Pimentel was referring to the different terms and prescriptive periods found on Sections 50 and 51 of the bill, stating 10 years and 20 years, respectively.

“Recalling the approval of the MIF and returning it to the floor is the sole remedy left for Congress if it is to correct and clarify the discrepancies and ambiguous provisions in the MIF. There is no shortcut,” he said.

“We must take the necessary steps to rectify the errors and save the President from signing an erroneous bill into law,” he stressed.