Padilla says he advised Villar to stop Maharlika debates to pass bill

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Metro Manila (CNN Philippines, May 25) – From one neophyte senator to another.

Senator Robin Padilla on Thursday said he advised fellow first-timer Mark Villar, sponsor of the proposed Maharlika Investment Fund, to refuse further interpellations on the controversial bill in the plenary.

"Sabi ko nasa rules ng Senate naman kapag sabi ng sponsor na ayaw na niyang pa-interpellate, tapos e," Padilla told reporters.

"Sinabi ko sa kanya 'yan last week pa, sinabi ko sa kanya nandoon kami sa floor, pare kung ako sa'yo, ano mo na Senate rules, wag ka na magpa-interpellate," he added.

[Translation: I told him it's in the Senate rules that if a sponsor no longer wants to face interpellation, then that's it. I told him last week that if I were him, I'd cite the Senate rules and refuse interpellation.]

According to the Senate website, senators "may refuse to yield to interpellation," but this is not traditionally exercised by the chamber.

Padilla explained much time has been given to discuss the Maharlika bill, and many questions have already been answered during the committee hearings.

He said it needs to be passed immediately, considering it's among the reasons cited by colleagues who did not support his proposal to amend economic provisions in the Constitution saying the Maharlika fund would yield foreign investments.

"Nag-aaksaya tayo ng oras [We're wasting time]," he said.

The House of Representatives passed its version of the Maharlika bill in December last year, followed by Senate hearings which began in February. The Senate opened plenary debates on the measure on May 15.

The more lengthy interpellations were on Wednesday. Senator Sherwin Gatchalian again appealed to spare the Bangko Sentral ng Pilipinas from the list of government owned and controlled corporations required to contribute to the Maharlika fund – to protect its reputation and credibility.

He said the Land Bank of the Philippines and Development Bank of the Philippines have enough investible funds anyway.

Senator Francis Escudero, meanwhile, questioned the perpetual existence granted to the Maharlika Investment Corporation, which will manage the fund. He also said it remains unclear what projects the corporation would invest in, and how the government will earn from these.

Senate President Juan Miguel "Migz" Zubiri said the chamber is only "accommodating the last few members who want to interpellate on Monday." It can then pass the bill on second and third reading in one day, since the bill has been certified urgent by President Ferdinand Marcos, Jr.

"Hopefully, the House can adopt our version which we improved with more safeguards in place to avoid possible misuse," Zubiri said in a text message to reporters.

This will also hasten the process, since the two chambers no longer need to create and convene a bicameral conference committee to reconcile differences in the two versions of the bill.

Economic managers want the bill signed into law before Marcos' second State of the Nation Address on July 24.