‘Unconstitutional’: Colmenares questions lighting-fast approval of ‘chaotic’ Maharlika bill
MANILA, Philippines — Bayan Muna chairman Neri Colmenares asserted on Friday that the swift approval of the Maharlika Investment Fund bill violates the 1987 Constitution, adding that his party list will “definitely challenge” the bill in the Supreme Court.
Colmenares maintained that Article VI, Section 26 (2) — mandates that no bill passed by either House can become law unless it has passed three readings on separate days and printed copies of its final form have been distributed to its Members three days prior — was violated when the Senate approved the bill on its second and third readings in the same session on Wednesday.
“The Constitution is clear in requiring 3 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,” said the former solon.
“Maharlika is therefore unconstitutional and will be definitely challenged by Bayan Muna in the Supreme Court,” he asserted.
Colmenares also called out several errors in the Maharlika bill, saying that even the most minor mistakes in the legislation “do not add confidence to the viability of the Maharlika Fund and the amount of study given to the bill by the legislature.”
These discrepancies include conflicting provisions in Sections 50 and 51 of the bill, which prescribe 10 years for punishable “crimes” and 20 years punishable “offenses,” respectively.
“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. Kaya medyo magulo ang pagka-draft ng final bill kasi ilang oras lang ang pagitan ng amendments at third reading approval,” said Colmenares.
(The final bill was chaotically drafted because the amendments and the third reading approval were only hours apart.)
“That is not the way to pass a law, especially [one] that is a threat to at least P500 billion of public funds,” added the former congressman.
Bayan Muna also questioned the Senate’s “shortcut approval” of President Ferdinand “Bongbong” Marcos Jr.’s certification of urgency on the Maharlika bill, adding that the upper house “cannot justify” this decision.
“The shortcuts and errors committed are the result of an abuse of the presidential certification of emergency, and it cannot justify the Senate action. Constitutional requirements cannot be violated in the name of a baseless presidential certification of emergency. There was no emergency being addressed now, as there was no emergency when Pres. Marcos Jr. also certified the bill in the House of Representatives last December 2022,” said Colmenares.
“If there was an emergency when the House approved the bill last year, why is it that Pres. Marcos Jr. issued the emergency certification of the Maharlika bill in the Senate only now? This staggered certification is a fatal admission that there was no emergency that requires the immediate enactment of a bill as required by the Constitution,” said the Bayan Muna chair.
Colmenares is one of the petitioners that asked the Supreme Court (SC) in February to nullify the urgency certification of the Maharlika bill. The SC junked the petition in May because an “allegation of unconstitutionality” cannot warrant its review.