The proposed additional powers for the Office of the Solicitor General

Kristine Joy Patag - Philstar.com
The proposed additional powers for the Office of the Solicitor General
Under the bill proposed by House Speaker Pantaleon Alvarez (Davao del Norte) and four others, the powers and mandate of PCGG and OGCC will be transferred to the OSG.
Miguel de Guzman

MANILA, Philippines — The House in plenary on Tuesday approved a proposal to “consolidate” the powers of the Office of the Solicitor General.

The lower house voted 162-10 to approve House Bill 7376, titled “Act to Further Strengthen the Office of the Solicitor General.” This, despite strong opposition by the Department of Justice, Presidential Commission on Good Government and the Office of the Government Corporate Counsel.

Under the bill proposed by House Speaker Pantaleon Alvarez (Davao del Norte) and four other lawmakers, the powers and mandate of PCGG and OGCC will be transferred to the OSG, which is currently headed by Jose Calida.

The PCGG is the government body created to recover the ill-gotten wealth from the family and cronies of ousted dictator Ferdinand Marcos. It was the first executive order that President Corazon Aquino signed after Marcos was deposed in 1986 through the EDSA People Power Revolution.

The OGCC, meanwhile, is the oversight body of government-owned-and-controlled-corporations or GOCCs that conduct both commercial and non-commercial activities.

RELATED: A look into plans to abolish the agency going after Marcos loot

DOJ maintains opposition

In a text message, Justice Secretary Menardo Guevarra said that while he “respects” the action of the House of Representatives, the Justice department will continue to oppose legislation at the Senate.

“We will maintain our position during the senate deliberations till the enrolled bill reaches the president,” Guevarra added.

Senators Richard Gordon, Panfilo Lacson and Manny Pacquiao, Juan Miguel Zubiri and Loren Legarda have filed bills that also seek to give the OSG the functions of the PCGG and OGCC, saying the offices have overlapping roles.

Former Justice Secretary Vitaliano Aguirre II opposed the proposal, saying there is nothing wrong with the OSG, PCGG, and OGCC existing independently of each other.

The PCGG and the OGCC have raised potential conflicts of interest in the proposed transfer of their mandate to the OSG.

Budget Secretary Benjamin Diokno, in 2017, dismissed the role of the PCGG.

He said: "They don't do anything. What do they do?"

Some pertinent details of House Bill 7376

The OSG will become an attached agency to the Office of the President, for budgetary purposes. It is currently under the Department of Justice.

Under the measure, the OSG’s legal divisions will expand from 30 to 50. “Each division, headed by an Assistant Solicitor General, shall consist of at least ten lawyers and such other personnel as may be necessary for the OSG to effectively carry out its functions,” the bill reads.

 The Solicitor General will also have a rank of a Cabinet Secretary. The government’s chief legal counsel will have the “same qualifications for appointment, prerogatives, salary grade, allowances, emoluments, privileges, retirement and other benefits, and shall be subject to the same inhibitions and disqualifications, of an Associate Justice of the Supreme Court.”

The OSG “shall represent the Government of the Philippines, its agencies and instrumentalities, including GOCCs, and its officials and agents.The OGCC, during the Senate deliberations on a counterpart bill in February, raised a possible conflict of interest.

It pointed out that the OSG is tasked to always represent the government and its agencies such as the Bureau of Internal Revenue, Bureau of Customs, and Department of Finance." The OGCC noted the case of UCPB, a GOCC, that has minority "private shareholders" will raise a conflict in the OSG's function as the primary defender of the Republic. 

The OSG will also “file and prosecute all cases investigated by the PCGG.” It should be stressed, however, that Calida once led the campaign of the dictator’s son, Ferdinand “Bongbong” Marcos Jr., under the Alyansang Duterte-Bongbong (ALDuB) group.

Calida also defended the legality of President Rodrigo Duterte’s executive order to bury the remains of the late strongman at the heroes' cemetery in Taguig.

Calida has downplayed his ties with the Marcoses as a potential conflict should his office absorb cases being pursued by the PCGG. 






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