Efforts to abolish PCGG underway at House of RepresentativesBy Christian V. Esguerra
Philippine Daily Inquirer
MANILA, Philippines–Efforts to abolish the Presidential Commission on Good Government (PCGG) are officially underway at the House of Representatives, following the filing of a bill seeking to transfer part of its responsibilities to the Department of Justice.
Under House Bill No. 4049, “the powers and functions of investigations and prosecution of criminal (cases) exercised by the PCGG shall be transferred to the Department of Justice.”
Civil cases would now be handled by the Office of the Government Corporate Counsel. These would include the “management, administration and the disposition of the assets, as well as the sequestration of the properties considered to be ill-gotten.”
“More than 20 years and four administrations have passed, PCGG has not produced significant accomplishments that would justify its continued existence,” according to the explanatory note of the bill, which was jointly introduced by Representatives Sergio Apostol and Pedro Romualdo.
“Through these years, the work performed by the Commission is not commensurate to the annual expenses needed to maintain the office. The time is ripe to abolish the PCGG in line with the cost-saving efforts of the government,” the note added.
HB 4049 has been pending before the Committee on Government Reorganization since January 2011, or more than a year before PCGG chairman Andres Bautista made public his recommendation for the commission to close shop.
“It has become a law of diminishing returns at this point,” Bautista had told Agence France-Presse
“It’s been 26 years and people you are after are back in power. At some point, you just have to say, ‘We’ve done our best,’ and that’s that. It is really difficult. In order now to be able to get these monies back, you need to spend a lot.”
But Bayan Muna Rep. Neri Colmenares assailed the move by the PCGG, saying it should continue going after the ill-gotten wealth of the late dictator Ferdinand Marcos.
“They owe it to the victims of human rights violations during Marcos’ time and the Filipino people,” he said in a statement.
“The lesson to be learned if the search for the Marcos wealth stops is crime pays and if you steal big, you can get away with it,” he added in Filipino.
Colmenares said his partylist group would block efforts to abolish the PCGG at the House.
“They should still go after the Marcoses whatever happens. The ill-gotten wealth should be returned to the people. PCGG officials and prosecutors who weakened the cases should be prosecuted,” he said.
The bill by Apostol and Romualdo designates the Department of Finance’s privatization office as custodian of “all sequestered real and personal assets and properties previously under the control and management of the PCGG.”
Also to be included are “all contracts, records and documents relating to the operation of the PCGG.”
Employees who stand to lose their jobs as a result of the abolition “may be absorbed” by the privatization office based on “merit and fitness.”
“All contracts and agreements entered into by the PCGG prior to the effectivity of this Act shall remain in full force and effect unless otherwise terminated, modified or amended for lawful cause,” according to the bill.