Supreme Court asked to declare Maharlika fund unconstitutional
MANILA, Philippines — A petition seeking to stop the Maharlika Investment Fund (MIF) rollout has been filed before the Supreme Court.
The plea was submitted by incumbent and former lawmakers of Congress.
They want the High Tribunal to eventually declare MIF unconstitutional.
The 59-page petition for certiorari and prohibition was filed on Monday by Senate Minority Leader Koko Pimentel and three former Bayan Muna lawmakers – party chairperson Neri Colmenares, Carlos Zarate, and Ferdinand Gaite.
They recalled the passage of MIF was rushed and Congress disregarded correct legislative steps under the 1987 Constitution.
They asked the magistrates to take four actions against MIF. These requests are the following:
- Issuance of a Temporary Restraining Order and/or Preliminary Injunction and/or Status Quo Ante Order to stop the implementation of Republic Act Number 11954
- Giving due course to the petition
- Set oral arguments
- Declare R.A. No. 11954 unconstitutional and void.
MIF is the country’s first sovereign wealth fund.
The proposed bill was signed into law by President Ferdinand “Bongbong” Marcos Jr. in July 18.
The original version of the bill was submitted in the House of Representatives on November 28.
It was swiftly approved before Congress adjourned its session in December, after Marcos certified the proposal as urgent.
In Senate, the counterpart measure was approved nine days after Marcos certified the bill as urgent.
“Republic Act 11954, or the Maharlika Investment Fund Act of 2023, is a dangerous law. It entrusts hundreds of billions in public funds to unknown fund managers and an amorphous nine-member Board of Directors, six of whom remain unidentified until now,” the petitioners said.
“Premises considered, the Maharlika Investment Fund Act of 2023, therefore, requires intense congressional scrutiny, genuine consultation with stakeholders, and a careful study by independent economic experts,” they explained.
“Both Houses of Congress, however, went on the opposite direction and rushed the Maharlika bills and short-circuited the constitutionally mandated legislative processes, through an unnecessary and constitutionally infirm presidential certification of urgency,” they said.
According to the petitioners, both House and Senate bypassed several legislative processes when they supposedly meddled with an already-approved bill — as changes were made to MIF bill even after both Houses had ratified the proposal, and after Congress adjourned its session.
“The House of Representatives, again, not learning any lesson from their previous experience, immediately adopted the ‘Approved Bill’ of the Senate bill on that very day without even subjecting it to due diligence scrutiny or at least giving a photocopy of the bill to House members, who were voting whether to adopt or not to adopt the Senate approved bill,” the petitioners told the Supreme Court.
“The disaster was compounded when some members of Congress tried to amend the bill already approved and adopted by the Senate and by the House on May 31, 2023, respectively, a constitutionally fatal act in the passage of the law,” they narrated.
It was Pimentel and Senator Risa Hontiveros who questioned why the bill was being rushed, sacrificing correctness as a result, as it was being amended after approval.
However, Senate President Juan Miguel Zubiri said there is no malicious intent to tamper with the bill’s final version.
Despite the rush to approve the bill, the petitioners asked why it took over a month to submit the enrolled bill to the President — and over week for the Chief Executive to sign it into law.
The necessity of MIF has been questioned right from the moment it was filed in House.
Initially, the original version sought P275 billion as a start-up fund, of which P125 billion would be coming from Government Service Insurance System (GSIS), P50 billion from Social Security System (SSS), and P50 billion from Land Bank of the Philippines.
The remaining P50 billion — P25 billion each — was supposed to be sourced from Development Bank of the Philippines and the annual appropriations.
However, several lawmakers objected to this proposal, saying that sourcing funds from GSIS and SSS might place the life of the pension fund in peril.
Eventually, proponents of the bill decided to remove GSIS and SSS as among the funding sources.