Bayan Muna to challenge Maharlika Investment Fund before SC

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Metro Manila (CNN Philippines, June 2) — The Bayan Muna Party-list "will definitely" challenge before the Supreme Court (SC) the constitutionality of the Maharlika Investment Fund (MIF) bill, which is now awaiting President Ferdinand Marcos Jr.'s signature.

"The Constitution is clear in requiring three readings on separate days plus a requirement that the legislators have a copy of the bill they are approving as well as the time to study the bill. Maharlika is therefore unconstitutional and will definitely be challenged by Bayan Muna in the Supreme Court," Bayan Muna chairman Neri Colmenares said Friday.

At least two senators earlier said they will back any action to take the controversial measure to the high court.

READ: Two senators back moves to challenge Maharlika fund before SC

Senate Bill 2020 creating the MIF was swiftly approved on second and third reading just minutes apart early morning of May 31. Legislative measures normally see first, second, and third reading approvals on separate days — unless certified as urgent by the president.

"Presuming they have a Third Reading copy of the bill, the senators could not have even studied the bill if the amendments inserted were indeed those that they agreed upon during the Second Reading," Colmenares explained.

One such amendment was the removal of state pension funds as source of seed capital for the MIF.

Colmenares said the hasty passage was among the reasons the final draft was "medyo magulo [somewhat messy]." He cited typographical errors and conflicting provisions such as those in Sections 50 and 51 of the bill.

Sec. 50 pertaining to the prescription of crimes says "crimes punishable under the Act shall prescribe in 10 years." Sec. 51 pertaining to prescription of offenses reads that "all offenses punishable under this act shall prescribe in 20 years."

The House of Representatives adopted on the same day the Senate version of the measure. For Colmenares, this meant the lower chamber did not have enough time to study it.

He blamed the swift approval of the MIF bill on Marcos' urgent certification – describing it as "abuse of presidential certification of emergency."

For his part, Senate Minority Leader Aquilino "Koko" Pimentel III said he will make himself available as a "source of some facts, information and arguments" for those who plan to challenge the MIF before the courts.

Pimentel earlier asked the president to veto the bill and return it to Congress to give lawmakers a "chance to take a second look at the measure in order to address the concerns raised by many sectors."

Not justiciable issues

However, Albay 1st district Rep. Edcel Lagman, who voted no to the House version of the MIF, said that he did not see "any constitutional infirmity in the MIF to merit the Supreme Court's exercise of judicial review, albeit its being errant in wisdom."

"Congressional wisdom and expediency are not justiciable issues before the Supreme Court," he said, adding he is "dousing cold water" on projected petitions to challenge the bill's constitutionality.

The opposition lawmaker explained: "In unbroken jurisprudence, the Supreme Court has held that 'The courts do not involve themselves with or delve into the policy or wisdom of a statute' and 'It is settled that courts are not concerned with the wisdom, justice, policy, or expediency of a statute.' (Tañada vs. Tuvera, December 29, 1986; Garcia vs. Executive Secretary, April 2, 2009; Garcia vs. Drilon, June 25, 2013; and KMU vs. Aquino, April 2, 2019)."

Lagman added that the remedy against an "unwise or improvident law" was to seek its amendment or repeal.