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Senator downplays conflicting provisions of Maharlika fund bill

THE SENATE president on Thursday downplayed criticisms that Congress had disregarded the legislative process when it made changes to the bill creating a Philippine sovereign wealth fund.

“[The bill] went through the correct process,” Senate President Juan Miguel “Migz” F. Zubiri told a news briefing, referring to the Maharlika Investment Fund bill. “We just reflected the true intentions of the provisions as reflected in the transcript of records.”

He was referring to the transcript of the Senate’s plenary session in which Senator Mark A. Villar proposed a 10-year prescriptive period for crimes under Section 50 of the bill.

But the bill that the Senate passed on May 31 which the House of Representatives adopted on the same day included conflicting provisions. Section 50 sets a prescriptive period of 10 years, while Section 51 lists it at 20 years.

“It was an honest oversight by our staff,” Mr. Zubiri said, noting that the bill was approved in the wee hours of May 31.

He also said bills certified by the president as urgent “do away with the requirement to have a printed third-reading copy before approval.”

The version of the Maharlika Investment Fund bill that Mr. Zubiri signed last week contained the updated Section 50, which he said was discussed in a Viber group chat of senators.

“The enrolled bill now signed by myself, which is now in the House of Representatives, is the truthful reflection of the intent of the legislators,” he said.

He also cited instances when a bill continued to receive changes even after its passage by Congress, including the Armed Forces of the Philippines Professionalism bill, in which Senate Minority Floor Leader Aquilino “Koko” D. Pimentel III continued to propose amendments shortly after its ratification on March 21.

Mr. Pimentel had questioned changes added outside plenary sessions.

“This is the usual legislative process that we go through,” Mr. Zubiri said. “We are only reflecting the true essence of what was discussed during the plenary.”

The Maharlika Investment Fund bill is awaiting the signature of Speaker Ferdinand Martin G. Romualdez before it is sent to Malacañang for the president’s signature. — Beatriz Marie D. Cruz

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