Unlike House, Senate wants PCGG to stay
In a departure from the House of Representatives’ measure, the Senate has passed a bill strengthening the Office of the Solicitor General (OSG) but without the controversial provision abolishing the Presidential Commission on Good Government (PCGG).
The chamber, by a 16-0 vote, approved on third and final reading Senate Bill No. 1823, which would expand the powers of the OSG, including the authority to hire more lawyers to boost its efforts as the government’s principal law office and legal defender.
Notably absent from the bill is a provision that abolishes the PCGG, the agency tasked to run after the ill-gotten wealth of the Marcos family and its cronies, and the Office of the Government Corporate Counsel (OGCC).
Those provisions were in earlier versions of the bill primarily authored and sponsored by Sen. Richard Gordon.
The House version, which passed on third reading in May, also includes provisions allowing the OSG to absorb the functions of the PCGG and the OGCC.
Critics had slammed the move, noting that the current solicitor general, Jose Calida, who would benefit from the measure, was a known Marcos loyalist and election campaigner of the dictator’s son and namesake, former Sen. Ferdinand Marcos Jr.
In his sponsorship speech in May, Gordon said he “disagreed” that the PCGG should be abolished, taking note of its accomplishments in recovering billions of pesos of the Marcos family’s ill-gotten wealth after the peaceful Edsa People Power Revolt in 1986.
According to the PCGG, it had recovered more than P170 billion in ill-gotten wealth from the family of late dictator and his cronies from 1986 to 2015.
Under the version passed by the Senate, the bill would primarily amend Executive Order No. 292, or the Administrative Code and Republic Act No. 9417, to introduce provisions that directly deal with the most important challenges faced by the OSG.
Overloaded with cases
“The Office of the Solicitor General is in dire need of competent, dedicated and honest lawyers to perform its mandate of being the People’s Tribune and the legal defender of the Republic of the Philippines. We need to aid the OSG to take on this formidable task,” Gordon said.
To solve the problem of OSG lawyers who are overloaded with cases, the bill mandates “competitive” retirement perks and other benefits for them so they would stay and help the agency recruit new lawyers.
The Senate and the House will meet in conference to reconcile the differences between their versions of the bill.
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