House leaders want more powers for OSG

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Leaders of the House of Representatives want to give more powers to Solicitor General Jose Calida by abolishing the Presidential Commission on Good Government (PCGG) tasked to go after the ill-gotten wealth of the late former President Ferdinand Marcos and his family, as well as the Office of the Government Corporate Counsel (OGCC).

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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 Office of the Solicitor General (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.

Calida has justified police actions in the ongoing anti-drug war, as well as defended President Rodrigo Duterte’s decision to bury Marcos at the Libingan ng mga Bayani before the Supreme Court.

Calida recently offered the services of his office in the case build-up for an impeachment complaint against Vice President Maria Leonor “Leni” Robredo, who opposed the hero’s burial for Marcos.

The PCGG has estimated the Marcoses’ ill-gotten wealth at $10 billion. Of this amount, the PCGG has recovered only $4 billion since it was established in 1986.

Under the bill, the OSG will be headed by the solicitor general and composed of at least 50 assistant solicitors general, senior state solicitors, state solicitors 2, state solicitors 1, associate solicitors 3, associate solicitors 2 and associate solicitors 1.

The proposed new OSG will have 50 legal divisions, with each division headed by an assistant solicitor general. Each legal division will have 10 lawyers and can hire other personnel.

It will also have the following offices: Financial Management Service, Docket Management Service, Case Management Service, Human Resources Management and Administrative Service, and Budget and Planning Service, each headed by a director appointed by the President. The President, based on the solicitor general’s recommendation, will appoint these directors.

Also, the new OSG will have an Office of Legal Services headed by a chief legal officer appointed by the solicitor general. The solicitor general will also determine the salaries, benefits and qualifications of the chief legal officer.

The solicitor general will have the same qualifications for appointment, rank, category, prerogatives, salaries, allowances, emoluments, privileges, retirement and all other benefits of an associate justice of the Supreme Court.

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