THE Senate approved on third and final reading early Wednesday morning, May 31, 2023, Senate Bill 2020, or the Maharlika Investment Fund (MIF) Act, one of the priority legislations that were certified as urgent by President Ferdinand “Bongbong” Marcos Jr.

The bill, sponsored by Senator Mark Villar, gained 19 “yes” votes, one “no” and one abstention following an 11-hour plenary session, which started Tuesday afternoon, May 30, until around 2:30 a.m. of Wednesday.

Opposition Senator Risa Hontiveros voted against the measure, while Senator Nancy Binay chose not to vote.

Among the amendments adopted by the upper chamber in its version of MIF is the absolute banning of the Social Security System (SSS), Government Service Insurance System (GSIS), Philippine Health Insurance Corporation (Philhealth), Pag-Ibig, Overseas Workers Welfare Administration (Owwa), Philippine Veterans Affairs Office (PVAO), and Home Development Mutual Fund (HDMF) from investing in the MIF, whether on a mandatory or voluntary basis.

It was one of the main concerns that hounded the measure.

The amendment was pushed by Senators Raffy Tulfo, Ronald dela Rosa, Pia Cayetano, and Joel Villanueva and was approved by Villar despite it being in contrast to his position as of Monday, May 29.

Villar earlier said that the board of the state-run agencies should be given a free hand to decide whether they would invest on MIF.

“The rationale for this as many of our colleague including this representation has manifested on the floor in as much as we truly hope that the fund will be successful, we would like to ensure that the pension fund and aforementioned funds would not be touched to at least preserve this because we have experienced in the past the hard-earned money of our people were lost,” Cayetano said.

Villar rejected, however, the proposal of Senator Sherwin Gatchalian to remove the Bangko Sentral ng Pilipinas (BSP) dividends as a funding source of the MIF during its first two years, noting that the administration’s priority is to use it.

The capital of the MIF will be sourced from the Landbank of the Philippines (P50 billion), Development Bank of the Philippines (25 billion) and the National Government (P50 billion).

The contribution from the National Government will come from the Bangko Sentral ng Pilipinas' total declared dividends, National Government's share from the income of Pagcor, properties, real and personal identified by the DOF-Privatization and Management Office and other sources such as royalties and/or special assessments.

Any increase in capitalization of MIF will have to be approved by Congress.

Under the proposed measure, individuals with pending judicial and administrative cases related to fraud, plunder, corruption, money-laundering, tax evasion, or any crimes similar to misuse of funds or breach of trust are absolutely disqualified from being members of the Maharlika Investment Corporation (MIC).

It also stated the imposition of heavier penalties of a fine ranging from P1 million to P5 million, perpetual disqualification from public office, and imprisonment of six years against those who will be involved in the misuse of the MIF.

The MIC board of directors, which will have the power to “direct the management and operations, and administration of the MIC,” will be composed of the secretary of Finance as chairperson in an ex-officio capacity; president and chief executive officer of the MIC as vice chairperson; president and CEO of (Land Bank of the Philippines); resident and CEO of the DBP (Development Bank of the Philippines); two regular directors with a three-year term; and three independent directors from the private sector with one-year term.

The regular directors will be appointed by the President upon the recommendation of the board.

An oversight panel that will be composed of seven members each from the two chambers of Congress -- Senate and the House of Representatives -- will be created to oversee, monitor, and evaluate the implementation of the proposed law.

The panel will be co-chaired by the chairpersons of the House Committee on Banks and Financial Intermediaries, and the Senate Committee on Banks, Financial Institutions, and Currencies.

Villar also accepted the proposal of Senator Robin Padilla that all documents related to MIF and MIC should be available both in English and Filipino.

For the purpose of transparency, Gatchalian’s proposal that all MIC reports should also be uploaded through its website was approved.

The House of Representatives passed its version of MIF, the House Bill 6608, on December 15.

A bicameral committee meeting will be held at 11 a.m. Wednesday to reconcile the disagreeing provisions between the chambers’ versions of the measure.

The measure will then be submitted to Marcos for approval.

The MIF is a sovereign wealth fund that will be used to invest in a wide range of assets, including foreign currencies, fixed-income instruments, domestic and foreign corporate bonds, commercial real estate, and infrastructure projects.

The fund is expected to generate income for the government and help promote economic development. (SunStar Philippines)