Koko to scrutinize ‘tampered’ Maharlika bill

Credit to Author: Cecille Suerte Felipe| Date: Mon, 26 Jun 2023 00:00:00 +0800

MANILA, Philippines — Senate Minority Leader Aquilino “Koko” Pimentel III is determined to scrutinize any changes made to the provisions of the Maharlika Investment Fund (MIF) bill, which now requires only the signature of President Marcos to become law, asserting that any such alterations warrant legal action.

Until yesterday, Pimentel maintained that Marcos should veto the MIF bill and allow Congress to make any necessary changes to provisions that were not clearly articulated as a result of rushing its passage.

“It would be a more patriotic act for the President if he vetoes the MIF. Anyway, his political capital would improve by showing his ability to decide objectively. From his point of view that he likes it, he can veto it because Congress did not give him what he wants,” Pimentel, speaking in Filipino, said.

Earlier, the former Senate president said in a radio interview that he is ready to join opponents of the measure to the last battlefield — the Supreme Court — if Marcos signs the measure into law even if the enrolled bill had been “tampered with.”

Reports have it that members of the Senate majority bloc agreed to merge Sections 50 and 51 — which included two periods of prescription for crimes and offenses — and retain the 10-year period instead of 20 years, long after the Senate bill was approved on third and final reading and adopted by the House of Representatives.

In an interview with dzBB yesterday, Sen. Francis Tolentino said Senate President Juan Miguel Zubiri will explain exactly what happened to the enrolled bill amid allegations it was tampered with to correct some “errors.”

“All I know is that when SP (Zubiri) comes back tomorrow (Monday). He will explain it (MIF) himself, so let’s give SP a chance to talk about it,” said Tolentino, referring to Zubiri’s return from a trip to the United States. Tolentino was with Zubiri in the US trip.

Pimentel said that if the Senate leadership would reason out that certain MIF provisions were changed for the sake of “economy of words,” that would be unjustified.

“If the reason is the so-called economy of words, our question is who executed the changes? Who executed and implemented the economy of words?” Pimentel asked. “If it’s the Senate secretary, who is our friend appointed by the Senate President and ratified by the Senate; but technically, he is not a member of the Senate because he was not elected. There are only 24 members of the Senate plenary. The official action of the Senate must be passed in plenary.”

Pimentel, who is a lawyer, pointed out that regardless of how many senators agreed to make the changes, it still did not pass the plenary session and cannot be executed.

“The Senate admitted that they touched the final version that was approved on the third and final reading by the Senate. I had said from the start, nothing should be altered or changed, especially in the substance and idea,” said Pimentel in Filipino.

As of now, he said he cannot categorically state that what happened with the MIF bill would qualify as falsification of public documents.

“We have that provision in the Revised Penal Code, but let us first study the elements of the crime,” Pimentel said. “But what is clear here is that the bill was tampered with.”