Ex-Senate Presidents raise concern over 'errors' in Maharlika fund bill

Sherrie Ann Torres, ABS-CBN News

Posted at Jun 09 2023 07:02 PM | Updated as of Jun 09 2023 11:08 PM

Ex-Senate Presidents raise concern over 'errors' in Maharlika fund bill

MANILA — Two former Senate Presidents raised their concerns Friday over the approved version of the controversial Maharlika Investment Fund (MIF) bill and the supposed post-approval "amendments" to the measure.

According to former Senate President Franklin Drilon, any senator who supposedly erroneously entered a wrong amendment or conflicting provision in the controversial Maharlika Investment Fund Act of 2023 bill had no liability for committing such mistake.

For one, Drilon said the amendment was made in an open session and with the full view and access of all senators and the Senate secretariat.

Any mistake should be immediately identified during that exercise, especially by the Senate Majority Leader, Drilon said.

“Yan po ay tinanggap ng Senado. Ang dapat nangyari dyan, dapat nakita ng majority leader na mayroong conflict at i-oppose yun, ilagay sa tama yung amendment. Ang nangyari, hindi po napansin sa pagkaalam ko, kaya nagkagulo,” Drilon said. 

(That was accepted by the Senate. The majority leader should have seen that there was conflict and opposed it, put in the right amendment. What happened, as far as I know is that it went unnoticed.)

Meanwhile, Sen. Imee Marcos said "many things" should be fixed with the Maharlika bill. 

"Ayan na nga sinasabi ko, sa kamamadali, ang dami daming kailangan ayusin dyan sa Maharlika bill na yan. At ngayon di tuloy mapirmahan ni PBBM at dapat pang repasuhin ng Kongreso. Ano ba yan," said the President's sister. 

(That's what I'm saying, due to the rush, many things should be fixed with that Maharlika bill. And now BBM couldn't sign it, it should be revised by Congress.)

Sen. Marcos opted not to attend the May 31, 2023 session where the Maharlika bill voting took place. 

She previously expressed her reservations against the bill, particularly on its "source of funds", which she said should come from a "windfall" in the budget that the Philippines lacked. 


There are talks that the Senate secretary was supposedly tasked to correct the contradicting provisions on the prescription period for crimes punishable under the measure.

Senate sources insisted it was Sen. Risa Hontiveros who introduced the prescription period provision amendment in the Maharlika bill that was in conflict with the original proposal.

According to highly-placed Senate sources, Hontiveros moved to amend Section 50 of the bill stating a 10-year prescription.

A review of the Senate session's May 30, 2023 video showed Hontiveros introducing a succeeding portion, now Section 52, pushing for a 20-year prescription period.

Both prescription periods made it to the version approved by Congress. 

Senate Majority Leader Joel Villanueva insisted there was no attempt to touch the already approved Maharlika bill.

“There’s no such thing as amending, deleting or adding to what the members of the Senate intend to pass during that particular committee and individual amendments na nangyari sa floor,” he said in a statement. 

Villanueva, who also serves as the Senate’s officer-in-charge in the absence of Senate President Juan Miguel Zubiri who is vacationing abroad, also sent the following screenshot of a transcript of the exchange between Hontiveros and MIF bill sponsor, Sen. Mark Villar. 


Referring to the transcript, Villanueva said, “Kasalanan po ba talaga ng majority leader?”

(Is it really the fault of the majority leader?)

Hontiveros has yet to respond to questions for clarification that ABS-CBN News sent to her office. 

But for her ally Senate Minority Leader Aquilino “Koko” Pimentel III, the mistake stemmed from the insistence of the Majority bloc to rush the Maharlika bill approval even in the wee hours of the morning.

“They should all have been wide awake because they chose to hold sessions up to 2:30 a.m. If you insist on doing something, make sure you are capable of doing it competently,” he said.

Ninteen senators voted in favor of the bill, while Hontiveros voted no and Sen. Nancy Binay abstained from voting. 

Pimentel and Sen. Francis Escudero were no longer present when the voting took place during an extended session in the wee hours. 


For Drilon, the final Maharlika bill version can still be reverted to the plenary so it could undergo its needed corrections.

But the process, he said, must include both the plenary action of the Senate and the House of Representatives.
The President, he said, can call for a special session to realize such requirement.

Drilon said, aside from passing the Maharlika bill, what’s more important is “to get the confidence of the people.”

Zubiri’s predecessor former Senate President Vicente Sotto III said the Maharlika bill could be recalled during the resumption of session in July or during a special session since the President can call for it in cases of emergencies.

Asked if he sees the Maharlika bill approval issue as an emergency case, Sotto said: “Aba’y ewan ko sa kanila.”

“Yung mga ganung bill, hindi pwedeng minamadali. Kasi walang emergency yan eh, may emergency ba yan?” Sotto asked.

(I don't know with them. Bills like that should not be rushed because there is no emergency. Is there any emergency?)

“Yung certification of urgency, inaalis lang naman dun yung three-day rule eh. Hindi naman ibig sabihin nun na a matter of life and death,” he added. 

(The certification of urgency only removes the rule that requires 3 days before readings. It does not mean that it's a matter of life and death.)

Marcos had called for a swift passage of the bill to enable the debt-laden government to earn extra funds for infrastructure projects and attract more foreign investors.

Sotto said the Senate should be independent. 

"Dapat hindi kayang pressure-in ng Presidente, or ng Supreme Court, or ng House of Representatives... Kaya nga gusto natin lagi na independent-minded ang mga senators eh," Sotto pointed out.

(The Senate should be immune to pressure from the President or the Supreme Court or the House of Representatives. That is why we always want independent-minded senators.)