The Department of Justice (DoJ) has objected to a proposal in Congress abolishing the Presidential Commission on Good Government (PCGG) and the Office of the Government Corporate Counsel (OGCC) and transferring their authorities and responsibilities to the Office of the Solicitor General (OSG).
In a seven-page position paper dated April 7, 2017 and signed by Justice Secretary Vitaliano Aguirre 2nd, the DoJ conveyed its opposition to House Bills (HB) 5216 and 5233 to House justice panel chairman Reynaldo Umali of Oriental Mindoro.
The OSG represents the government in the Supreme Court, Court of Appeals and other tribunals in cases where the state is a party.
The OGCC handles cases of all government-owned or -controlled corporations (GOCCs).
”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, Bureau of Customs and Department of Finance,” the position paper said.
”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.
Aguirre said the proposals want to erase the OGCC as a separate statutory law office and have its functions merged with those of the OSG.
Newly appointed Government Corporate Counsel Rudolf Philip Jurado said “better corporate governance across the sector was also observed, thus lending credence to the adage that good governance in fact results in good economics.”
He added that in all the GOCCs’ strides and successes over the years, the OGCC has been their quiet and effective partner.
Juardo said for over eight decades, the government corporate sector constantly relied on and has been assisted by the OGCC, a specialized legal arm of the GOCCs.
The GOCC sector’s growth and its units’ positive contributions to the government’s coffers cannot be ignored, he noted.
In the past six years alone, the sector recorded a total of P171 billion in dividend remittances.
OGCC lawyers have developed, over the years, “a contextualized knowledge that GOCC clients highly value.”
Umali, House Speaker Pantaleon Alvarez of Davao del Norte and House Majority Leader Rodolfo Fariñas of Ilocos Norte filed House Bill 5233 seeking to abolish the PCGG and OGCC and transfer all their authorities and responsibilities to the OSG, whose head will have the rank of a Cabinet secretary.
The bill, if approved, becomes the OSG Charter that will empower the Solicitor General to grant immunity from 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.
At present, the OSG is under the umbrella of the DoJ for budgetary purposes but has a separate autonomy.
”It is our view that the OSG should continue to be an agency attached to the DoJ, mainly because the powers and functions of the OSG are devolved from this department’s power as the principal law agency of the government and as legal counsel and representative thereof,” the DoJ said.