Two senators back moves to challenge Maharlika fund before SC

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Metro Manila (CNN Philippines, June 1) — Two senators are in support of any action to challenge before the Supreme Court the controversial Maharlika Investment Fund (MIF) which is now up for President Ferdinand Marcos Jr.'s signature.

Senate Minority Leader Koko Pimentel said the MIF could still be challenged before the high tribunal.

"Yes, the Maharlika Law can be challenged before the courts and for those planning to do this, I will make myself available as source of some facts, information, arguments," he told reporters Thursday.

Though she was pleased that pension and social welfare funds would no longer be used as seed capital for the MIF, Senate Deputy Minority Leader Risa Hontiveros likewise backed the move to challenge the measure before the SC.

"I maintain that the fund is not what we need now, and I will certainly support any action to raise this to the Supreme Court," Hontiveros, the sole dissenter against the MIF, said in a statement Thursday.

"According to Section 16, Article XII of the 1987 Constitution, GOCCs [Government-owned or controlled corporations] must pass the test of economic viability and our economic experts have raised plenty of arguments that cast doubt on whether the MWF [Maharlika Wealth Fund] has passed or even be subjected to this test," she explained.

Article 12, Section 16 of the 1987 Constitution says: "Government-owned or controlled corporations may be created or established by special charters in the interest of the common good and subject to the test of economic viability."

The Senate swiftly approved before dawn on Wednesday its version of the Maharlika fund bill, which Marcos certified as urgent. Hours later, the House of Representatives adopted the upper chamber's version of the measure.

Marcos earlier said the government will tap the MIF for possible investments in agriculture, energy, digitalization, and the fight against climate change, among others.

It is patterned after the sovereign wealth funds of other nations, including Singapore, China, Hong Kong, South Korea, and Malaysia.

Senator Francis Escudero on Wednesday said fellow lawmakers just opened the bill for possible constitutional scrutiny due to the absence of an actual test of economic viability for the Maharlika Investment Corporation.

"In the interest of time management, (it was) decided to pass it notwithstanding. Now, this opens it up to possible constitutional scrutiny," Escudero told CNN Philippines' Politics As Usual.

During the deliberation at the Senate, 16 senators junked Pimentel's appeal to refer the MIF bill to the Committee on Government Corporations and Public Enterprises for further scrutiny.

The minority leader argued that the primary intention of the proposed bill is to create a corporate body, which is the MIC. He said there was a "procedural error" when the bill was tackled instead by the Committee on Banks, Financial Institutions and Currencies.

In an earlier interview with CNN Philippines' The Source, Pimentel said no one will be held responsible if the proposed Maharlika fund fails.

Meanwhile, Sen. Nancy Binay who abstained from voting on the measure acknowledged that the bill's passage had "left more questions hanging than answers."

"Although the final bill has undergone many amendments up to the last hour of the deliberations, the content still lacks balance," she said.

"I have concerns about the MIF not falling within the necessary operational safety nets and parameters. We don't want the 'Big IF' in the Maharlika Fund be dragged onto the 'Big Unknown.'"

Initial capital for the Maharlika fund will come from the Land Bank of the Philippines (₱50 billion), the Development Bank of the Philippines (₱25 billion) and the national government (₱50 billion).