Senators warn economic team vs. changing provisions in IRR
Senators vowed to keep a keen eye on economic managers crafting the implementing rules and regulations (IRR) of the Maharlika Investment Fund (MIF) bill once it is enacted into law and warned of “criminal consequences” if the Congress-approved measure is tampered with in any way.
Senate Majority Leader Joel Villanueva warned economic managers not to attempt to invest pension funds into the MIF whether directly or indirectly.
“No matter what they do, they can’t deviate from the spirit of the law,” said Villanueva.
The economic managers, he said, “were not elected to debate, to amend, or to remove (provisions) in this law,” as he underscored the need to closely watch the IRR crafting.
If the government’s economic team — Finance Secretary Benjamin Diokno, Budget Secretary Amenah Pangandaman, Bureau of Internal Revenue Commissioner Romeo Lumagui Jr. and other officials — will “tinker” with the MIF law, the Senate leader will insist on their stand barring the use of pension and health funds to be used as seed capital in the fund, noting they have the oversight.
“We can always call on them, if they have the plan to deviate (from the spirit of the bill),” said Villanueva.
Villanueva, however, earlier agreed with Diokno that the Government Service Insurance System (GSIS) and Social Security System (SSS) may invest in projects that also involved the Maharlika Investment Corp.
The Senate hopes to transmit the enrolled MIF bill to the Palace within the week.
Once it becomes an enrolled bill, it will be signed by Senate President Juan Miguel Zubiri and House Speaker Martin Romualdez and will be sent to Malacanang for President Ferdinand Marcos Jr. to either sign or veto and send back to Congress.
“This is an urgent and priority measure of the President,” Villanueva said.
His opposition counterpart, Senate Minority Leader Aquilino Pimentel III, warned of the criminal consequences of tampering with the MIF bill, as Villanueva noted the measure was still undergoing “finishing touches” like correcting typos and clerical errors by the Senate Secretariat before being submitted to the President.
“Do not change anything in it. This is not OK and may even amount to a crime if words are changed to ‘perfect’ a bill, as the perfecting exercise should have been done on the floor only by the elected members of the Senate,” Pimentel said.
Senators on Tuesday stood firm on their position that state-run pension and insurance institutions are absolutely prohibited from investing in the proposed MIF, as Pimentel admonished Diokno for his “play on words” when he claimed the GSIS and SSS can invest in projects backed by the MIC.
“That is why it is a great privilege to be a member of the Philippine Senate, only 24 individuals at one given time are given this great opportunity and privilege. No unelected staff should be allowed to change the work of the elected members of the Senate,” explained the former Senate President.
However, changing section numbers of an approved bill from the sequence of, for example, 48, 50, 49, 50, into section numbers 48, 49, 50, 51 may be allowed, Pimentel said.
“But to change the words, the content of the version approved on third and final reading will amount to falsification. The word ‘final’ will have lost its meaning,” he added.
Senate staff cannot change the entries in a bill, like deleting some words or adding new words, he said.
“They cannot change meanings or nullify some expressed idea. They are not allowed to replace their ideas for the words of the senators,” said the minority leader.
He noted that no one else can perfectly express the sentiment and intent of the Senate other than the elected members of the Senate.
“When they said the final version was approved, then that’s it, that is the final version,” he pointed out.
Meanwhile, Villanueva said there were several privileged speeches “that do not contain the essence of our law. There was a miscommunication at the end of the day.”
In a media briefing, Villanueva maintained that the MIF bill passed in the Senate was clear, “wherein our people, institutions, and pension funds are protected.”
“We will definitely monitor and make sure the IRR would also adhere to the position of the members of the Senate,” the majority leader assured.
He noted that this will be beneficial not only to the government, but also to ordinary citizens.
Sen. Risa Hontiveros also said the Senate will likewise exercise its oversight function to ensure that safeguards for the protection of pensioners’ and contributors’ hard-earned money are enforced.
“It is clear: the Senate’s version of the bill, which was later on adopted (by the House of Representatives), orders the absolute prohibition of the use of funds of the GSIS (Government Service Insurance System), Social Security System (SSS), PhilHealth, and other insurance and pension institutions,” she pointed out.
The task of the Executive Branch “is to carry out laws that have been passed by the legislature,” Hontiveros said.
“What Congress intended should be the standard for how the law is implemented. The Executive is not allowed to change, expand, or limit it based on its own interpretation,” she added.