People can’t scrutinize Maharlika Fund – Pimentel
Senate Minority Leader Aquilino Pimentel III on Sunday said the proposed Maharlika Investment Corp. (MIC) would virtually take away the power of Congress to identify and allocate funds for infrastructure projects, offering another reason why his fellow lawmakers should spurn the controversial measure.
According to Pimentel, among the provisions of Senate Bill No. 2020, which seeks to establish a Maharlika Investment Fund (MIF) that the MIC would manage, involved the authority of the nine-member corporate board to bankroll “mega infrastructure projects” of the government.
He said this was worrisome since members of the MIC would decide on such matters without the usual public scrutiny during the deliberations of the Senate and the House of Representatives.
“Imagine, instead of having [hundreds of lawmakers] elected by the people, you will have a board composed of nine people meeting behind closed doors,” Pimentel said during a radio interview.
“That’s the danger here … There are so many concepts we have to discuss. That’s why I don’t understand why the Senate is rushing its passage,” he said.
The opposition senator vowed to make use of all available legislative procedures to block the passage of the bill, which he said was flawed from the start.
No amount of amendments, he insisted, would be enough to insert during the last three legislative days to remedy the defects in the MIF.
Senate President Juan Miguel Zubiri had earlier said that the chamber would finish the plenary deliberations on the measure before the first session of the 19th Congress ends on June 2 after President Marcos certified its passage as urgent.
But Pimentel admitted that the Senate minority bloc, composed of him and Sen. Risa Hontiveros, was “too minority” to take on the chamber’s 22-member supermajority.
“I just hope that the Senate majority will not use their sheer number to relax or waive our published rules [of parliamentary procedure],” he said.
Asked if he was expecting some of the pro-administration senators to vote against the MIF, he said: “I think they are keeping their cards close to their chest.”
Senate Majority Leader Joel Villanueva said the three months that the Senate spent in discussing the envisioned MIF were enough to scrutinize its contents.
He said he was expecting the plenary debates to continue until the wee hours of the morning on Tuesday to accommodate the remaining questions and concerns of his colleagues.
As mentioned by Zubiri, he said the bill would probably be passed before the legislative break since the House had expressed its willingness to adopt the Senate version.
“There’s a possibility of extending our session until Thursday … because we have a timeline,” Villanueva said.
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