Makabayan bloc asks SC to nullify Marcos’ certification of Maharlika fund as urgent

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Metro Manila (CNN Philippines, February 13) – Lawmakers of the Makabayan bloc want the Supreme Court (SC) to nullify President Ferdinand Marcos Jr.'s certification of the Maharlika Investment Fund (MIF) Bill as urgent.

The petitioners asked the SC to declare as void and unconstitutional Marcos’ certification of urgency on the MIF, and the House’ third reading approval of the HB 6608.

They also asked that guidelines or standards be established in the exercise of Presidential Certification under Art. VI Sect. 26 (2) of the 1987 Constitution. This section pertains to Congress’ procedure on approving bills.

“When a President certifies a bill urgent only in one House of Congress, without finding it necessary to issue the same certification in the other House, that is a distortion and a grave abuse of discretion in the exercise of a presidential power under Art. VI Sec. 26 (2),” read the petition filed by the Makabayan bloc before the SC on Monday.

Last Dec. 14, Marcos certified House Bill (HB) 6608 – or the MIF Bill – as urgent in a letter to the House of Representatives. When this was read in the Plenary on Dec. 15, the measure was approved on second and third reading in just one day.

READ: House approves Maharlika Investment Fund bill

Both Art. VI Sec. 26 (2) of the Constitution and the House rules state that bills must undergo first, second, and third reading on separate days. But, presidential certification of urgency allows select measures, such as the MIF, to be exempt from this.

The president’s certification of urgency is typically made in order to respond to public calamities or emergencies.

The bloc argued that the certification of the MIF as urgent was unconstitutional because no public calamity or emergency was expressly stated in Marcos’ letter to the House, in the explanatory note of HB 6608, or when the measure saw third reading in the Plenary, and because the urgent certification was not issued to the Senate.

“Since the President did not certify a bill urgent in one House, the President is merely short-circuiting the legislative process in the other House,” it added.

The petition therefore questions if Marcos committed abuse of discretion when he certified the MIF as urgent, and if the House did the same when it approved the measure on third reading.

The SC petition was filed by Deputy Minority Leader and ACT Teachers Party-list Rep. France Castro, Assistant Minority leader and Gabriela Women's Party-list Rep. Arlene Brosas, Kabataan Party-list Rep. Raoul Manuel, Bayan Muna Chairman Neri Colmenares, and former Bayan Muna Party-list Rep. Carlos Isagani Zarate.

The respondents are President Ferdinand Marcos Jr., Executive Secretary Lucas Bersamin, and the House of Representatives.

The MIF Bill – which seeks to establish the country’s own sovereign wealth fund – was re-engineered over the Congressional holiday recess by a four-man contingent which included House Ways and Means chairperson and Albay Rep. Joey Salceda at the president’s orders.

Under this version, the dividends of the Bangko Sentral ng Pilipinas were dropped as fund sources and it also opened up the fund to private and foreign investors.

Meanwhile, the Senate has been tackling the MIF at the Committee level since February. Sen. Mark Villar and Sen. Raffy Tulfo filed two iterations of the bill.

However, Villar’s and Tulfo’s measures are similar to the bill approved by the House last December. They do not contain the provisions of the re-engineered bill.