Pimentel on missing ‘Maharlika’ vote: Senate shouldn’t pass bills at an ungodly hour | Inquirer News

Pimentel on missing ‘Maharlika’ vote: Senate shouldn’t pass bills at an ungodly hour

By: - Reporter / @BPinlacINQ
/ 01:04 PM June 01, 2023

NIA SHOULD BE READY TO ANSWER QUESTIONS: Senate Minority Leader Aquilino “Koko” Pimentel III backs the call of Sen. Raffy Tulfo to use the budget process to hold accountable different government agencies, particularly the National Irrigation Administration (NIA). Pimentel made the manifestation following Tulfo’s privilege speech about the P121-billion anomalous unfinished projects funded by the NIA from 2017 to 2022. “I would advise NIA to better prepare to answer questions from all of us come the budget process,” Pimentel said Tuesday, May 16, 2023. (Joseph B. Vidal/Senate PRIB)

Senate Minority Leader Aquilino “Koko” Pimentel III  (Joseph B. Vidal/Senate PRIB)

MANILA, Philippines — The missing vote of Senate Minority Leader Aquilino Pimentel III on the Maharlika Investment Fund (MIF) bill raised questions as he had been a vocal dissenter of the proposal over the past few months. 

Pimentel on Thursday pointed out that the Senate shouldn’t even be approving bills at an ungodly hour despite any evident rush to pass it.

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In the wee hours of Wednesday, the Senate passed the MIF bill on the second reading and immediately after, on the third and final reading. This came more than a week after the measure was certified as urgent by President Ferdinand Marcos Jr.

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“I knew the [Senate] majority was rushing it, but we all should be reasonable in our proceedings and avoid approval on the second and third reading of bills at 2:30 a.m. This is not called an unholy hour for no reason,” Pimentel told the Inquirer in a message. 

He asked what emergency called for the votation that could’ve been done on “more normal hours.” 

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“Also, I have decided to boycott the amendments period for the Maharlika measure, which I believe is unjustifiable and unsalvageable. And to leave the majority to come up with their final version, which is their own work and ‘masterpiece,’” the lawmaker said. 

During the rigorous and hours-long period of amendments to the MIF bill, Pimentel was not there. 

But Senator Risa Hontiveros – the only other member of the chamber’s minority – took part in pushing for revisions in the proposed legislation. 

The Senate majority, according to Pimentel, was trying to put up safeguards in the MIF bill throughout the process of amending it.

“I was, and I still am, after the justifications for the Maharlika fund – Where is the surplus? Windfall profit? Underlying revenue-generating assets? None! Hence, why all the effort and energy spent on something which cannot be justified?” he said.

Fresh from the period amendments, the senators voted 19-1-1 on the MIF bill. 

Hontiveros cast the sole negative vote. Senator Nancy Binay abstained, while Pimentel, Senator Francis Escudero, and presidential sister Senator Imee Marcos were not on the floor to cast their votes. 

The Senate’s overwhelming decision, in effect, boosted the proposed MIF in its journey toward becoming a law. 

Minority ‘easily outvoted’

Pimentel lamented the “difficulty and reality” of working in collegial bodies like the Senate. 

“‘Majority rule’ is the rule that is followed. It is frustrating that a two-member minority cannot sway the 22-member majority. We are so ‘easily outvoted,’” he said partly in Filipino. 

So, what’s next now that the MIF bill is only awaiting Marcos’ signature? 

Moving forward, Pimentel said the Senate minority would be linking up with concerned groups. 

“If they want to challenge this Maharlika in courts, I can provide them with some hopefully useful information and facts,” he said. 

The MIF bill was among the major bills passed by Congress in less than a year since the start of the Marcos administration. 

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Despite the staunch pushback from critics, who questioned the risks, justification, and timing of the measure, the proposed MIF – a known brainchild of Marcos – is a step closer to becoming a reality. 

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TAGS: Koko Pimentel, Maharlika Investment Fund, Marcos, Senate

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