Senate rejects Pimentel’s call to refer Maharlika bill to another committee

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Metro Manila (CNN Philippines, May 30) — Voting 16-2, the Senate junked Minority Leader Aquilino “Koko” Pimentel’s appeal to refer the Maharlika Investment Fund (MIF) bill to another committee for further scrutiny.

During Tuesday’s plenary session, Pimentel said his colleagues made a mistake of putting the discussions on the Senate Bill 2020 or the MIF bill under the Committee on Banks, Financial Institutions and Currencies.

He then urged senators to correct the “procedural error” by referring the bill to the Committee on Government Corporations and Public Enterprises, explaining that the primary intention of the proposed measure is to create a corporate body.

“The proper committee should have been the committee on GOCCs (government-owned and controlled corporations), not banks. We have to correct this as process is as important as substance. The primary intention is to create a corporate body, not matters relating to banks or financial constitutions,” Pimentel stressed.

After his two-hour-long "turno en contra" speech, Pimentel made the motion. Majority Leader Joel Villanueva immediately objected.

Senator Francis Escudero also took to the stand to explain that Pimentel’s motion is no longer possible since the deadline to contest the measure's referral to the plenary has passed.

“The period within which to ask for a consideration of the decision of plenary has long passed. Maliwanag ang rules na kapag lumipas ang 24 hours matapos mapagpasyahan ng plenaryo para makahingi ng pagpapalit ng desisyong yun, hindi na pwede gawin,” Escudero said.

[Translation: The rules are clear that when 24 hours have passed after the plenary has asked for appeals, it can no longer be done.]

Pimentel asserted that he is submitting a fresh motion to send the bill back to the committee level and not a motion for reconsideration.

"This is not a motion for consideration because when we first tackle it on the floor, it is theoretical. Now we see the bill before us,” Pimentel said.

Only Pimentel and Senator Risa Hontiveros of the minority block voted in favor of referring the MIF bill to another committee, a move that would delay its approval.

“The creation of Maharlika Fund bill outlives us… We must carefully assess the potential risks and weigh them against perceived benefits before committing to such drastic measure,” Hontiveros said.

The controversial measure is poised for approval this week with President Ferdinand Marcos Jr. certifying its passage at the Senate as urgent

Marcos’ certification of urgency ‘unconstitutional’

Pimentel also questioned the president’s declaration that it is “urgent” for the Senate to pass the MIF bill, which is considered a priority measure of the Marcos administration.

Marcos issued the same certification for the House version of the bill in December, resulting in its swift approval.

“This has been a much-abused power by the Office of the President. Here we are again, placing a presidential certification of necessity or urgency when there is no public calamity or urgency before our eyes,” the senator said.

Marcos said inflationary pressures, unstable prices of fuel products, and interest hikes drive the need for a “sustainable national investment fund” that would accelerate the implementation of many major projects to boost economic growth.

House waiting for Senate version of MIF bill

With Congress set to adjourn this week, the House of Representatives is still waiting for the Senate to pass its version of the MIF bill.

“We’re still awaiting. We have not yet received, but we’re very much eager. If the Senate can finish it today— If there’s a need for a bicam (bicameral report), then we can do it tomorrow and pass it, ratify before we go on sine die adjournment,” House Majority Leader Manuel Jose Dalipe said.

Dalipe said the House aims to adjourn session on Wednesday, but he said the schedule will also depend on the developments at the Senate.

The legislative calendar sets the final day of session on Friday, June 2.

CNN Philippines' correspondents Eimor Santos and Xianne Arcangel contributed to this story.