Senate refers Maharlika Fund bill to Villar's banks panel

The Senate on Wednesday, January 25 referred the controversial Maharlika Investment Fund (MIF) bill to the Senate Committee on Banks chaired by Sen. Mark Villar.

This was after majority of the members of the Senate unanimously voted down a motion to refer the controversial MIF bill to the Senate Committee on Government Corporations.

The Senate decided to put to a vote Senate Minority Leader Aquilino "Koko" Pimentel III's motion to refer the bill to the Senate government corporations panel. But only two voted in favor, 19 against and one abstained. Senate Deputy Minority Leader Risa Hontiveros sided with Pimentel.

"I think that the proper, correct primary committee for these two bills, which actually talk about the same issue ... I think the correct and proper committee to be the primary committee would be our Committee on Government Corporations and Public Enterprises. Because undoubtedly, the two bills create a GOCC (government-owned or controlled corporation), but it does not create a bank, it is not about currency, but is it about the third subject matter of financial institution of the committee that we referred it to? Hindi po (no, it was not)," Pimentel reasoned out.

"This is the position of this representation, that those bills are better referred to the Committee on Government Corporations and Public Enterprises because they, no doubt, seek to establish a government corporation," he explained.

Senate President Juan Miguel Zubiri, presiding over the Senate plenary session, said that the House of Representatives used also the Committee on Banks and Financial Institutions to take this measure up and they passed it under that committee.

"If I’m not mistaken, what is being established here is a financial institution of government. It’s a funding source, it will be used as a funding mechanism. And therefore on the face of it all, it seems more appropriate to leave it with the Committee on Banks and FInancial Institutions," he pointed out.

"Government corporations will be more or less if we create a new GOCC and create a charter. We’re not creating a charter in this Maharlika Investment Fund," he added.

Zubiri said the complementary bill of Senator Mark A. Villar, banks committee chairman, is relatively the same as the House measure on the MIF.

"We’re not bound by the actions of the House ... I don’t think that should bind us. Actually, we are creating the Maharlika Investment Corporation to manage the fund. That is what is clear from the two bills. What is clear is it’s not a bank, it’s not about currency, is it a financial institution? But if you look at existing definition under existing law ... hindi (no)," Pimentel countered,

Senate Majority Leader Joel Villanueva is of the mind that while he agrees with Pimentel that the Senate ‘’is not indeed bound by the House rules or what the House of Representatives did with their particular version, Mr. President (Zubiri), we are not even bound today, Mr. President if we actually act and transfer the referral of the bill to another committee, we can still do that, Mr. President.’

"If you look at the Senate bill that was referred to the Committee on Banks, Financial Institutions and Currencies, Senate Bill No. 1670, it proposes, Mr. President, to establish an independent investment fund by investing national funds and the funds shall be sourced from investible funds og select GFIs from contributions of national government, from dividends and declared dividends of the BSP, among others," he explained.

In so far as Zubiri is concerned, any of the senators "are capable chairpersons.. Anyone of you here can hear this bill, I’m sure, with professionalism and dedication."

Senator Francis Tolentino said that "it would appear that there should be an existing government corporation and questions affecting the said existing government corporation would be part of the jurisdiction of the said committee, including amendments to their charters."

"In this case, Mr. President, there is no government corporation in existence which would handle the Maharlika Investment Fund. No amendments to a government corporation in existence would be under the jurisdiction of the committee," he reasoned out.

"The mere mention of GFIs (government financial institutions), which is still a work in progress, would not be sufficient to lodge specifically on the said committee the Maharlika Investment Fund," Tolentino explained.

"The first referral to the Committee on Banks would be in order. Secondary committee would be Government Corporations," he added.