MANILA— The Department of Justice (DOJ) expressed opposition to a bill filed in the House of Representatives’ seeking to abolish the Presidential Commission on Good Government (PCGG) and the Office of the Government Corporate Counsel (OGCC) and transfer all its authorities and responsibilities to the Office of the Solicitor General (OSG).
In a seven-page position paper signed by Justice Secretary Vitaliano Aguirre II addressed to House justice panel Chairman Reynaldo Umali of Oriental Mindoro dated April 7, 2017, the agency conveyed its opposition to the House Bills (HB) 5216 and 5233.
These bills seek to abolish the PCGG and OGCC as a separate statutory law offices and have its functions merged with the OSG.
Aguirre said that position of the OGCC abd the PCGG must be taken into consideration on these bills since the proposed law shall abolish their respective offices and transfer their powers and functions to the OSG.
”We strongly object to these provisions. First, the provisions on the abolition of the OGCC and PCGG are considered a rider. The Constitution provides that “Every bill passed by the Congress shall be embraced only one subject which shall be expressed in the title thereof. The constitution does not allow the insertions of riders in legislation, a rider being a provision which is alien or not gemane to the subject or purpose of the bill in which it is incorporated,” read the DoJ position paper.
The Justice Secretary also said that a possible conflict of interest of client-agencies may arise should the OSG represent the government exercising governmental and proprietary functions.
The DOJ explained that one of the functions of the OSG is to represent the government in the Supreme Court and Court of Appeals, and all other courts or tribunals in actions, wherein the government or any officer thereof the in his official capacity is a party.
The primary function of the OGCC, on the other hand, is to serve as the principal law office of all government owned or controlled corporations (GOCCs) their subsidiaries and other corporate offspring and government acquired asset corporations.
The DOJ echoed the positions of OGCC and PCGG which stated that their mandates and function are different from that of the OSG.
”At present, there are numerous cases wherein the OGCC and the OSG find themselves representing opposing sides with conflicting interest. The OGCC represents GOCCs, while the OSG represents different agencies of the governments such as Bureau of Internal Revenue (BIR), Bureau of Customs(BoC) and Department of Finance (DoF),” the DOJ noted.
”The Department sees nothing wrong with the OSG, OGCC and PCGG existing independently of each other. In order to strengthen the OSG, there is no need to abolish the OGCC and PCGG,” it added.
Earlier, Speaker Pantaleon Alvarez of Davao del Norte, House Majority Leader Rodolfo Fariñas of Ilocos Norte and House justice panel Chairman Reynaldo Umali of Oriental Mindoro have filed House Bill 5233 seeking to abolish the PCGG and OGCC and transfer all its authorities and responsibilities to the OSG, whose head will have the rank of a Cabinet secretary.
The bill, which will become the OSG charter, proposes to authorize the solicitor general to grant immunity from criminal prosecution to any person who provides information or testifies in any investigation previously conducted by the PCGG or future cases investigated by the OSG involving ill-gotten wealth.
Currently, the OSG is attached agency under DOJ because offices providing legal services to the State. The government and the people are under the DOJ.
”It is our view that the OSG should continue to be an agency attached to the to the DoJ, mainly, because the powers and functions of the OSG are devolved from this Department’s power as the “ principal lawagency of the government and as legal counsel and representative thereof,” DoJ stressed.
”Likewise, there should not be a distortion of powers and functions between the Secretary of Justice as Attorney General and the Solicitor General. With the proposal to be placed under the Office of the President and amended functions, some of which duplicate powers of the Secretary of Justice, the proposal OSG would certainly distort the powers and functions of the Secretary of Justice and the Solicitor General,” it added.
The DOJ also said that with respect with other proposed benefits, this may be subject to availability of finds and the limitations set by appropriate agencies such as Commission on Audit (CoA) and the Department of Budget and Management (DoJ).
The DOJ noted that no need to create an Office of Legal Services, as this appears to be redundant function of the solicitors.
Last May 24, Solicitor General Jose C. Calida said that the proposed abolition of the two agencies would result in a leaner, cleaner government bureacracy in a bid to effectively address the people’s urgent needs.
“Consolidating the legal services under the Office of the Solicitor General (OSG) will eliminate redundant, duplicative and overlapping functions since the OSG, OGCC and PCGG only serve one client – the Republic of the Philippines,” Calida said in a statement.
“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 further explained.
Appearing before the Committee on Justice of the House of Representatives for the proposed OSG Bill, Calida maintained that the OSG has been representing the government in ill-gotten wealth cases since the PCGG’s creation.
Calida also noted several instances when GOCCs sought the OSG’s counsel instead of the OGCC, citing the cases involving GOCCs such as the Bases Conversion and Development Authroity, Philippine Ports Authority, Philippine Economic Zone Authority and Manila International Airport Authority.
Instead of the Department of Justice (DOJ), OSG will now be attached to the Office of the President (OP) for budgetary purposes under the proposed bill.
According to Calida, this is in accordance with the Constitution as the President shall have control of all the executive departments, bureaus, and offices.
“Considering that the President is the primary client of the OSG, this set-up will secure the fiduciary relationship between the two offices. The position of the OSG in a lot of cases have policy ramifications,” Calida explained.
The proposed bill also grants the OSG fiscal autonomy, which will allow the Solicitor General to acquire a new building to house additional lawyers and administrative personnel that will be hired as a consequence of the expansion.
“This is a welcome opportunity to promote the government’s policy to right-size the bureaucracy,” Calida opined.
“The benefits of a streamlined and more efficient bureaucracy that results from the proposed bill cannot be quantified,” the top government counsel added.