SENATE President Juan Miguel Zubiri has expressed confidence that the controversial Maharlika Investment Fund (MIF) bill is equipped with airtight safeguards to protect it from misuse and to ensure the stringent selection and vetting of its officials.

Zubiri said that the appointment of members for the Maharlika Investment Fund will not be solely decided by the President, but rather undergo a "very strict" process involving an advisory board.

“So we also put very strict compliance on the selection nitong mga members of the board, advisory council. Napakabigat, parang Judiciary Bar Council, ‘yung advisory board ang pipili ng ilang pwedeng maging president at CEO (chief executive officer) diyan, at doon pipili si Presidente,” he said.

(So we also impose very strict compliance on the selection of members for the board, advisory council. It's very stringent, similar to the Judiciary Bar Council, where the advisory board chooses some potential presidents and CEOs, and from there the President will make the selection.)

“Ibig sabihin, may dadaan pang proseso. Hindi lang pwedeng sabihin ng Presidente na ito ang kukunin ko. Hindi po. May proseso pa na magbibigay ng top five names, or top three names ang advisory board, of which the President can choose from. So, there is a venting process. There is a vetting process, rather, for the officers of the Maharlika Fund,” he added.

(It means there will still be a process. The President cannot simply say, "I will take this." No, there is a process wherein the advisory board will provide the top five names or top three names, from which the President can choose. So, there is a vetting process for the officers of the Maharlika Fund.)

Maharlika management

The MIC board of directors, which will have the power to “direct the management and operations, and administration of the Maharlika Investment Corporation (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 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 CEO, regular directors and independent directors will be appointed by the President upon the recommendation of the Advisory Body, which will be composed of the budget secretary, the National Economic and Development Authority secretary, and the national treasurer.

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 disqualified from being members of the MIC.

A director or officer of the MIC who willfully holds office while possessing any of the disqualifications or willfully conceals grounds for disqualification will be meted a fine of P5 million to P7 million at the discretion of the court and perpetually disqualified from holding public office.

The penalty will range from P10 million to P15 million when the violation of this provision is injurious or detrimental to the public.

An independent auditor who would knowingly certify or approve the corporation’s financial statements despite its gross incompleteness or inaccuracy, its failure to give a fair and accurate presentation of the corporation’s condition, or despite containing false or misleading statements, will also be fined P5 million to P7 million as well as jail time of six years and perpetual disqualification from holding public office.

Officers and employees of the MIC who will commit or be an accessory for the commission of fraud, graft and corrupt practices will be liable for a fine ranging from P1 million to P5 million, a jail time of six years and perpetual disqualification from holding public office.

The prescriptive period was set within 20 years.

“Ang point nyan, kung nagtatrabaho kayo sa Maharlika Investment Fund, nagnakaw kayo ng pera doon, you'll be under several laws. You'll be under the plunder law, graft and corrupt practices act and of course law governing syndicated estafa, which, by the way, is also non-bailable,” said Zubiri.

(The point is, if you are working in the Maharlika Investment Fund and you steal money from there, you will be subject to several laws. You will be covered by the plunder law, the graft and corrupt practices act, and, of course, the law governing syndicated estafa, which, by the way, is also non-bailable.)

“So, napakatindi, as a matter of fact kung akong yung taga private sector at binasa ko yan baka matakot ako pumasok o sumali dyan, baka kumonti yugn mag apply. Kase yung gusto nating bantayan ‘yung pera ng investors, particularly the government funds,” he added.

(So, it's quite severe, as a matter of fact, if I were from the private sector and I read that, I might be afraid to enter or join that, and there might be fewer applicants. Because what we want to safeguard is the money of investors, particularly the government funds.)

Senator Mark Villar, the principal author of the MIF bill, which was approved by the upper and lower chambers of Congress on Wednesday, May 31, and will be transmitted for the signature of President Ferdinand "Bongbong" Marcos, said he envisions the complete implementation of the measure within two years from its enactment as a law. He noted that the National Government is prepared for its implementation.

“This is not a political move. This is for our economy. Having an investment fund is not a new concept. We need this for additional income and attract capital for our industries such as energy, agriculture, as well as for infrastructure projects,” he said. (SunStar Philippines)