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Pimentel, Hontiveros condemn ‘tampering’ of Maharlika bill

Senate Minority Leader Aquilino “Koko” Pimentel III and Sen. Risa Hontiveros on Thursday, June 22, condemned the alleged tampering of the Maharlika Investment Fund (MIF) bill and warned that it raises serious questions about the constitutionality of the measure.

“Today marks a sad day for the 108th Senate, which has stood strong for over a century as the guardian of our Constitution and the rule of law,” Pimentel said.

“The Constitution, the cornerstone of our nation, is no longer being read and followed. Our rules have been rendered meaningless and worthless,’’ he added.

Reached by Senate reporters while he is still in Washington D.C.,  Senate President Juan Miguel F. Zubiri said: “I believe the corrections were thoroughly discussed by the majority bloc in our viber group, including the letter of correction sent by Senator Mark Villar (chairman of the Senate banks committee and sponsor of the MIF bill).”

“For more details please ask the (Senate) Secretary (Renato Bantug). Thanks,” he added.

Zubiri had said the ratified bill suffered from typographical errors which the Secretariat had to resolve.

The problem as pointed out by the Senate minority group was that two sections had different periods of prescription for offenses (20 years) and prescription for crimes (10 years) in the two sections.

“What the secretariat did was to combine them into prescription of offenses/offenses,” Bantug told Senate reporters when interviewed while he (Bantug) is in Washington D.C.

“All along that should have been 10 years, it was in the transcript and nagpaguusapang period as 10 years …that is very clear,” Bantug added.

Bantug is part of the Zubiri delegation to the United States. He brought a copy of the “corrected” ratified MIF bill for Zubiri’s signature.

But Pimentel is not mollified.

“The tyranny of numbers does what it wants to do, railroading and bulldozing all legal concepts and regulations out of the way,” he lamented.

“Warnings and arguments now amount to nothing. Nothing is sacred anymore,” he added.

Pimentel, former Senate President and 1990 bar topnotcher, said the enrolled Maharlika bill has been tampered without proper plenary authority.

“The enrolled bill being sent to the President is not the version properly and formally approved by Congress. Merong provision po diyan na ginalaw (There isa provision that was touched) without plenary authority,” Pimentel said.

Hence, the integrity and constitutionality of the bill are now in question, according to Pimentel.

“The revisions made were not just matter of style. It showed a flagrant violation of our rules and the Constitution,” he pointed out.

To prevent a national embarrassment, Pimentel reiterated his appeal to the President to veto the Maharlika Investment Fund bill, stressing his earlier statements that the measure is “ill-conceived” and that there are no surplus or windfall profits to back its funding. 

“It is not timely as the world economy and geopolitical situations are bad. This kind of a law needs more time to be discussed by the Filipino People themselves, in fairness to them. 

“Is this being done solely to appease one individual’s desire, just so that person will have something to announce during the State of the Nation Address (SONA)?” Pimentel asked.

The President’s SONA is usually delivered on the fourth Monday of July.

Hontiveros, for her part, said she will leave it to the constitutional lawyers to determine whether there are constitutional issued hounding the Maharlika bill.

“Pero sa totoo lang (But really), above and beyond the specific technical issue, what this speaks volumes about is the inordinate rush to pass a bill just to acquiesce to the wishes of the Executive,” she said.

“Nagkandaugaga kaya tuloy andaming palpak (They were in a rush that’s why there were too many mistakes),” added Hontiveros, who voted against the measure.

The Senate majority, she said, had a chance to amend and fix the matter during a bicameral conference meeting but “that wasn’t held.”

The House of Representatives have chosen to adopt the Senate version of the bill. 

“Pero hindi ito ginawa ng (But this was not done by the) Senate and House leadership, and if history will take the legislature of the 19th Congress to task for it, then so be it,” the deputy minority leader said. 

Mario Casayuran and Hannah Torregoza


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