House adopts Senate version, keeps ban on state pension funds
The enrolled copy of the Maharlika Investment Fund (MIF) bill will be transmitted to the Palace for signing by President Ferdinand Marcos Jr. after both Houses of Congress adopted the bicameral conference committee report, Senate President Juan Miguel Zubiri said Wednesday afternoon following more than 12 hours of deliberation.
In a 20-minute meeting of the bicameral conference committee at the Manila Polo Club in Makati City, the House adopted the Senate version of the bill, negating the need to reconcile the disagreeing provisions of the two versions.
President Marcos, meanwhile, assured the public that the government would not use state pension funds for the newly approved Maharlika Investment Fund.
The President made the remarks in an interview following his attendance at the 86th Anniversary of the GSIS in Pasay City, where he was asked for his views on the possibility of using the state pension funds as funding source for the MIF.
Marcos said that while the government would not use the pension funds for seed money, it was up to them if they wanted to invest in the MIF later on.
“However, a pension fund, which is what pension funds do, is to invest. If the pension fund decides the Maharlika Investment Fund is a good investment, it’s up to them if they want to invest in it,” he added.
Asked if President Marcos’ statement ran counter to the provisions of the final approved version of the bill, Zubiri said: “Yes.”
The Senate version explicitly prohibits any investment from state pension funds.Voting 19-1-1, the Senate approved after midnight on Wednesday approved the bill on third and final reading.
Those who voted yes were Zubiri, Senate President Pro Tempore Loren Legarda, Senate Majority Leader Joel Villanueva, and Senators Mark Villar, Cynthia Villar, Alan Cayetano, Pia Cayetano, Sonny Angara, Christopher Go, Ronald dela Rosa, JV Ejercito, Jinggoy Estrada, Sherwin Gatchalian, Grace Poe, Ramon Revilla Jr., Raffy Tulfo, Francis Tolentino and Robin Padilla.
Deputy Minority Leader Risa Hontiveros voted “no” while Senator Nancy Binay abstained from voting.
Senate Minority Leader Aquilino Pimentel III, who earlier objected to the government investment fund and vowed to block its passage in the Senate, was not around during the voting.
The President’s sister, Senator Imee Marcos, and Senator Francis Escudero were also not at the session when it was time to vote.
Escudero said he already left because he didn’t think there would be a vote.
“I didn’t choose. I just couldn’t wait for the voting anymore,” he said, pointing out that the effect of a “no” vote and an abstention were the same.
Manila Rep. Irwin Tieng, chairman of the House panel, announced they had already adopted the Senate version of the proposed measure.
Tieng’s announcement was applauded by the Senate contingent led by Zubiri and Senator Mark Villar, chairman of the Senate committee on banks and financial institutions and the sponsor of the bill.
In a media briefing, Zubiri thanked the House for accepting the Senate version with all the safeguards against abuse.
Zubiri earlier assured the public that they would pass the Maharlika bill in the Senate before Congress adjourned sine die on June 2.
Senators were asked to vote at 2:30 a.m.
Because the bill was certified as urgent, the senators were able to forgo the constitutional requirement of a three-day period between the second and third reading.
In the approved Senate version, there was an absolute prohibition against the Government Service Insurance System (GSIS), the Social Security System (SSS), the Philippine Health Insurance Corp. (PhilHealth), the Overseas Workers Welfare Administration (OWWA), the Philippine Veterans Affairs Office (PVAO), and Pag-IBIG (the Home Development Mutual Fund) from investing in the Maharlika Fund.
They are also prohibited from giving funds to the Maharlika Fund.
The senators eradicated the line in Section 12 of the bill that Hontiveros and Pimentel said would give the GSIS and SSS the option to invest in the fund.
Angara also inserted a provision which provides that Land Bank of the Philippines, the Development Bank of the Philippines and other government financial institutions (GFIs) can invest no more than 25 percent of their assets in the Maharlika Fund.
Zubiri said the Senate version of the bill had more safeguards against potential abuse than the House version.
The only senator who voted No, Hontiveros said the fund would soak up scarce public resources that could be used to address “multiple crises.”
In announcing the House decision to adopt the Senate version of the bill, Albay Rep. Joey Sarte Salceda, chairman of the House ways and means committee, said as promised, the MIF will not touch the GSIS, SSS, PhilHealth or Pag-IBIG.
The Department of Budget and Management (DBM) said the MIF funding sources include the Land Bank of the Philippines, the Development Bank of the Philippines, privatization proceeds, the Philippine Amusement and Gaming Corp., and Bangko Sentral ng Pilipinas dividends.
The proposed MIF is an independent fund that will be used to invest in strategic and commercial activities in a manner designed to promote fiscal stability for economic development and strengthen the top-performing GFIs through additional investment platforms.
Also on Wednesday, Padilla pushed for a Filipino translation of the measure and its related documents to make sure “ordinary Filipinos” understand the MIF bill.