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Marcos won’t veto Maharlika

Assures public independent managers to run sovereign fund

President Ferdinand Marcos Jr. on Thursday said he will immediately sign the proposed Maharlika Investment Fund (MIF) bill into law once it reaches his office, noting that proper management of the sovereign fund will be the key to its success.

“I will sign it as soon as I get it,” the President told reporters covering the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) anniversary event at the SEC Headquarters in Makati City.

The Chief Executive, who had certified the MIF bill as urgent, also stressed that the investment fund, once established by law, will be independent of the government.

“The key to the success of any fund, hedge funds, pension funds, sovereign fund, investment fund is the management,” he said.

“Even I proposed to the House to remove the President as part of the Board, to remove the central bank chairman, to remove the Department of Finance, because it has to operate as an independent fund, well-managed professionally,” Mr. Marcos added.

The President stressed decisions in relation to this fund should not be linked to politics.

“One of the elements that make that happen is that there is very clear independence from the day-to-day government function. Those decisions are not made by political decisions in government, the decisions made for the fund are made by finance professionals,” he said.

On Wednesday, Senate President Juan Miguel Zubiri said he had signed the enrolled copy of the MIF bill at the Philippine Embassy in Washington, where he is currently conducting an official visit to meet members of the United States Congress and government agencies.

Several interpretations on the use of the state pension funds triggered concerns the President might veto the measure, and amid calls for him to return the bill to Congress.

In particular, the Senate version of the bill, which was eventually adopted by the House of Representatives, included two sections on the prescriptive period for violations of the law.

The draft bill passed by the Senate provides a 10-year prescriptive period for crimes punishable under the measure, while another section in the same bill provides for a 20-year prescriptive period.

Several senators, including Senate Minority Leader Koko Pimentel, Senator Francis Escudero, and Senator Risa Hontiveros, asserted that the bill should be sent back to the Senate plenary for lawmakers to fix it.

Asked how the Senate addressed the double provisions on the prescriptive period, Zubiri said: “I believe the corrections were thoroughly discussed by the majority bloc in our Viber group, including the correction sent by Senator Mark Villar (the principal author of the bill in the Senate).”

The Senate approved the MIF bill on third and final reading on May 31, with 19 senators voting in favor.

The MIF seeks the creation of a sovereign wealth fund that the government can use to make investments.

Among the significant amendments introduced to the measure was the absolute prohibition of using the funds of the Government Service Insurance System (GSIS), Social Security System (SSS), Philippine Health Insurance (PhilHealth) Corporation, Pag-IBIG, Overseas Workers Welfare Administration (OWWA), Philippines Veterans Affairs Office (PVAO) in the capitalization and investments in the Maharlika fund.

Under the MIF measure, an oversight panel composed of seven members each from the two chambers of Congress will be formed to oversee, monitor, and evaluate the implementation of the proposed law.

President Marcos also allayed the concerns against the bill, saying that the safety of pension funds was ensured in the adopted version of the measure.

“I think most of the changes that were proposed and that were eventually adopted really had to do with the safety and the security of people’s pension funds, that’s when people’s doubt arises,” he said.

According to opposition Sen. Pimentel, the President should veto the bill since there is “a high chance” that it is unconstitutional.

“The enrolled bill being sent to him is not the version properly and formally approved by Congress. There is a provision there that was changed without plenary authority. There’s a high chance that Maharlika Law is unconstitutional,” he said in a statement.

Meanwhile, the Makabayan bloc in the House of Representatives condemned Zubiri’s signing of the MIF bill.

The group of congressmen took issue with the discussions the senators made over the bill in a Viber group.

“How can this be? Last time we checked, the Constitution does not allow legislation by Viber,” they said on Wednesday. — Vince Lopez and Maricel Cruz

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