JUSTICE Secretary Menardo Guevarra yesterday said he respects the move of the Lower House seeking to abolish the Presidential Commission on Good Government (PCGG) and Office of the Government Corporate Counsel (OGCC) to further strengthen the powers of the Office of the Solicitor General (OSG).
Guevarra, however, said he would want the PCGG and OGCC to remain in place.
“We respect the action of the HOR (House of Representatives). But we’ll maintain our position to keep PCGG and the OGCC under the wings of the DOJ (Department of Justice),” he said.
Guevarra said he has not discussed the bill with President Duterte who could stop its passage through a veto.
“It’s not an immediate issue. No counterpart bill in the Senate,” he pointed out.
The OGCC serves as the principal law office of all government-owned and -controlled corporations (GOCCs), their subsidiaries and other corporate offsprings and government acquired asset corporation while the OSG is tasked to represent the government and its officers in the Supreme Court, Court of Appeals and other courts or tribunals in actions where government or any officer in his official capacity is a party.
Currently, the OSG is attached to the DOJ because it provides legal services to the state but will become a separate agency once the bill is passed into law.
On Tuesday, the House approved on third and final reading a measure seeking to abolish the PCGG and OGCC to further strengthen the powers of the OSG.
Voting 162-10, the House approved House Bill 7376, or the proposed OSG Charter, which seeks to further strengthen the agency by increasing its powers and functions, and redefining, expanding, and rationalizing its organization.
Under the bill, the OGCC and the PCGG shall be abolished and their respective powers shall be transferred to the OSG.
This means that the legal representation of the government, its agencies, and instrumentalities, including GOCCs and officials and agents acting in their official capacity and the powers and functions of the PCGG, shall be consolidated in the OSG.
Affected personnel of the OGCC and the PCGG, who will not be absorbed into the new staffing pattern of the OSG, shall be given the option to avail of the retirement and separation package.
The bill also provides for the creation of at least 50 legal divisions in the OSG, each of which shall be headed by an Assistant Solicitor General and shall consist of at least 10 lawyers and other personnel.
Survivorship benefits for the Solicitor General, Assistant Solicitor Generals and State Solicitors shall be provided.
Meanwhile, several senators have already expressed their opposition to the bill.
The Senate Committee on Justice, chaired by Sen. Richard Gordon, does not favor the transfer of the powers of the PCGG to the OSG because such transfer “is the quickest way to forget” the recovery of the alleged billions of pesos of ill-gotten wealth of the Marcos family.
Likewise, Senate minority leader Franklin Drilon said the PCGG remains to be an important agency and thus should be maintained and strengthened.
“I oppose it. I am taking into position that there will be difficulties if we abolish the PCGG and the Office of the Government Corporate Counsel,” Drilon said.
Sen. Paolo Aquino IV also said if the Duterte government is serious in eradicating corruption, it should work to strengthen the PCGG rather than move to abolish it.
Earlier, Government Corporate Counsel Rudolf Philip Jurado explained that the GOCC sector is competently serviced by the OGCC, which for a long time has acquired a wealth of experience and expertise in corporate matters, and transferring the OGCC’s function to the OSG would derail the focus of GOCCs in performing their proprietary functions, which significantly contribute to the national wealth and development.
He added the GOCC sector has approximately P11.61 trillion in assets and has contributed in 2016 about P40 billion to the national treasury in terms of dividends.
The OGCC also submitted a nine-page position paper to the Senate where there are currently four bills proposing the abolition of the OGCC, which Jurado said would not serve public interests and could potentially harm and distort the already working system in government.
Jurado said that even the DOJ, where the OGCC is attached, is against moves to abolish their office.
He also pointed out that this proposal might have an adverse effect on investments.
“The proposal of the OSG also has a wide-ranging implication on investment. The proposal will only discourage the investing public from participating in industries where the government is involved, especially when the government’s stake is more than the majority of the outstanding capital stock. If the OSG will settle controversies in favor of only ‘one client’, then it is more than definite that the investing public will not be protected,” read the OGCC’s nine-page position paper.
He also said the GOCC needs to have a legal counsel and advocate with an established niche in government corporate practice. Since the OGCC has been in existence since 1935 it has become an expert in government corporate practice.
Solicitor General Jose Calida said the proposed abolition of the two agencies would result in a leaner, cleaner government bureaucracy in a bid to effectively address the people’s urgent needs.
“The integration of the functions of the OGCC and PCGG will promote the use of alternative dispute mechanisms, avoid protracted court litigations, and encourage consistency in the legal position of government agencies,” Calida said. (pna)