Koko Pimentel leads SC suit vs Maharlika


SENATOR Aquilino “Koko” Pimentel III together with the representatives of Bayan Muna Party-list group on Monday filed a petition before the Supreme Court seeking to declare unconstitutional Republic Act No. 11954 or the Maharlika Investment Fund Act of 2023.

The petitioners also sought the issuance of a temporary restraining order and/or a preliminary injunction and/or a status quo ante order to immediately enjoin the implementation of the law that was signed into law by President Ferdinand “Bonbong” Marcos Jr. last July 18.

Pimentel was joined by former congressman and Bayan Muna Chairman Neri Javier Colmenares, and former Bayan Muna congressmen Carlos Isagani Zarate and Ferdinand Gaite as petitioners in the case.

Named respondents in the petition were Executive Secretary Lucas P. Bersamin, Finance Secretary Benjamin E. Diokno, the House of Representatives, and the Senate.

In seeking to declare RA 11954 unconstitutional, the petitioners raised the following arguments: It is void because it was passed in violation of Section 26 (2) Article Vi of the 1987  Constitution; the test of economic viability as mandated under Section 16 of Article XII of the Constitution was not complied  with prior to the creation of the Maharlika Investment Corporation; and that the said law violates the independence of the Bangko Sentral ng Pilipinas as provided under Section 20, Article XII of the 1987 Constitution.

“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 petition read.

The petitioners pointed out that the Maharlika Investment Fund Act is being implemented in the midst of a budget deficit of P 1.6 trillion,  inflation rate of 6.1 percent, and poverty incidence of 18.1 percent in 2022 and massive unemployment and underemployment.  “And, more importantly, in a country that has as yet, unchecked and unbridled corruption in the government.

“A sovereign wealth fund and un-transparent Maharlika Investment Corporation has no place in a country that is still plagued with corruption,” the petitioners said.

Under Article VI, Section 26 (2) of the 1987 Constitution, a bill becomes a law only if it passes three readings on three separate days, except if Malacanang certifies it as an urgent measure.

However, the petitioners  said the Maharlika Bill was not enacted in accordance with the said provision thus, should be declared void.

They noted that the presidential certification of the Maharlika Bill in the House and in the Senate did not comply with the requirements under Article VI, Section 26 of the Constitution which include: the existence of a public calamity or emergency; the necessity of the immediate enactment of a law to meet such public calamity or emergency; and such “immediacy” that would justify the doing away of the necessary legislative requirement of three readings on separate days.

“The constitutional rule is that all bills should undergo three readings on three separate days. The exception to the rule is when the president certifies as to the necessity of the immediate enactment of a bill on grounds of public calamity or public emergency,” the petitioners explained.

“Hence, the constitutionality of the exercise of this presidential prerogative, the exception, must be strictly construed and regulated.

The President’s exercise of the power to certify as urgent the Maharlika Bill in the House of Representatives on December 14, 2022, and in the Senate on May 24, 2023, are void for failure to meet the three  constitutional requirement for a valid exercise of such prerogative,” they added.

The petitioners argued that the Maharlika Investment Fund Act of 2023 requires intense congressional scrutiny, genuine consultation with stakeholders, and a careful study by independent economic experts.

However, the petitioners said both the House and the Senate “rushed the Maharlika bills and short-circuited the constitutionally mandated legislative processes, through an unnecessary and constitutionally infirm Presidential certification of urgency.”

Likewise, the petitioners said the enactment of the assailed law  created a lasting connection between the BSP and Maharlika Investment Fund considering that 100 percent of the former’s dividends will be used as part of the capitalization of the Maharlika Investment Corporation.

The Monetary Board, according to the petitioners, has to curry favor from the President and ask for his approval should they believe that their fiscal as well as economic conditions merit the reduction of their contribution.

“The Monetary Board, therefore, despite its power to determine its policies, is now subjected by the law, to the discretion of the President,” the petitioners noted.

Image credits: AP/Bullit Marquez