Bill to abolish PCGG, OGCC reaps criticism, opposition

Kristine Joy Patag - Philstar.com
Bill to abolish PCGG, OGCC reaps criticism, opposition
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.
The STAR / Miguel de Guzman, file

MANILA, Philippines — The House of Representatives' approval of a proposed bill to have the Office of the Solicitor General take over the functions of the Presidential Commission on Good Government and Office of the Government Corporate Counsel earned the lower chamber criticism on Wednesday.

In a vote of 162-10, the House approved on third and final reading House Bill 7376, or the “Act to Further Strengthen the Office of the Solicitor General.” But Sen. Paolo Benigno “Bam” Aquino IV on Wednesday warned that the government may be taking another step towards "revising" the nation's history should the proposed bill land President Rodrigo Duterte's table for signing.

The PCGG was created by President Corazon Aquino, Sen. Aquino's aunt, in 1986. 

Under the bill filed by House Speaker Pantaleon Alvarez (Davao del Norte) and Reps. Reynaldo Umali (Oriental Mindoro), Karlo Nograles (Davao City), Dakila Cua (Quirino), Pantaleon Alvarez (Davao del Norte), Rodolfo Fariñas (Ilocos Norte) and Vicente Veloso (Leyte), the PCGG and OGCC will be abolished and their mandates will be transferred to the OSG, which would have an expanded staff.

READ: The proposed additional powers for the Office of the Solicitor General 

PCGG abolition   

Aquino warned that the abolition of the PCGG—the government body mandated to pursue and recover the ill-gotten wealth of Marcos' family and cronies—will “institutionalize revisionism.”

“If the government is determined to fight corruption, why would it abolish the PCGG that runs after the stolen wealth of the Marcos family?” Aquino said.

“Instead of abolishing the PCGG, it would be better if the PCGG will be strengthened because there are still stolen money and bank accounts that are yet to be returned to the Filipino people,” the senator added.

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

Martial law victim Etta Rosales, also a former chair of the Commission on Human Rights, said that the bill “adds insult to injury, rubs salt on the unhealed wounds of Marcos victims,” if the task of exacting accountability from the Marcoses will be given to Solicitor General Jose Calida, whom she called a “blind loyalist.”

“Calida is known to kiss the ground where Marcos used to walk,” Rosales said, pointing out that the solicitor general made a “passionate” defense to the government order to bury the late dictator at the heroes’ cemetery during Supreme Court oral arguments on the case in 2016.

Calida scored a victory against several groups, including martial law victims, when he successfully justified President Rodrigo Duterte’s executive order to bury the dictator at the Libingan ng mga Bayani.

The solicitor general, before he was appointed to government, was head of the Alyansang Duterte-Bongbong (ALDuB) group that campaigned for the Bongbong Marcos’ bid for the vice presidency.

Calida has downplayed his involvement in the campaign and claimed that there would be no conflict of interest should the PCGG's mandate be transferred to his office.

OGCC abolition

Philip Jurado, the government’s chief corporate counsel, on Wednesday said that the proposed bill presents a “clear case of conflict of interest—highly anomalous and scandalous.”

Jurado said: “There are presently about 400 active court cases and multimillion-peso arbitration cases where the OGCC and the OSG find themselves at opposing ends.”

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

The agency earlier raised 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. 

“With the OGCC gone, GOCCs will be haplessly at the mercy of a lawyer who can abandon their interest anytime,” Jurado added.

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