THE Justice department is opposing two bills in the House of Representatives seeking to abolish the Presidential Commission on Good Government and the Office of the Government Corporate Counsel.
In a legal opinion, Justice Secretary Vitaliano Aguirre II objected to House Bills 5216 and 5233 that seek to abolish OGCC and the PCGG and to transfer their functions to the Office of the Solicitor General.
Aguirre said the OGCC and PCGG had special functions that were entirely different from that of the OSG, and that them could result in conflicts of interest in many cases.
“There are numerous cases wherein the OGCC and the OSG find themselves representing opposing sides with conflicting interests,” Aguirre said.
“The OGCC represents the GOCCs [government-owned and -controlled corporations] while the OSG represents different agencies of the government like the Bureau of Internal Revenue, Bureau of Customs, Department of Finance and the like.
“If the BIR, for instance, assesses a tax on a GOCC like the Philippine Charity Sweepstakes Office, and the latter interposes as its defense that it is exempted from the tax, this conflict can only be resolved by going to court and it would be absurd if both entities will be represented by the solicitor general.”
Aguirre said the OGCC should be recognized for its key role in the economic achievements of GOCCs.
He does not want the PCGG abolished either but instead expand and broaden its powers.
“This 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,” Aguirre said.
Aguirre also disagreed with the provisions in the bills seeking transfer of the OSG as an attached agency of the Justice department to the Office of the President as an autonomous office.
“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 as legal counsel and representative thereof,” he said.
“It is thus our position that all offices providing legal services, including the OSG, should be attached to the DoJ,” Aguirre said.
The OGCC supported the position of the DoJ in a separate position paper submitted to the House committee on justice, which will deliberate on the two bills.
The agency laid down its accomplishments and contributions to government coffers to prove its efficiency in performing its duties and to show it did not deserve abolition.
The OGCC said that, in the past six years alone, a total of P171 billion in dividends remittance by the GOCC through its legal assistance had been recorded.
“Better corporate governance across the sector was also observed, thus lending credence to the adage that good governance in fact results in good economics,” newly appointed Government Corporate Counsel Rudolf Philip Jurado said.
He said his agency had played a vital role in protecting the government’s multi-trillion assets and equities through its contextualized knowledge of the clients’ needs and its industry awareness over the past eight decades
Jurado said the GOCC sector was a P4.9-trillion portfolio and its contribution to national development could not be denied.
“It is thus logical that its statutory counsel, which is tasked to provide them legal compass, must not be abolished but strengthened,” he said.
The DoJ and the OGCC issued the opinions at the request of the House committee on justice.
Solicitor General Jose Calida earlier expressed support to the two bills, which he believed would result in a leaner and cleaner bureaucracy in its legal services.
“Consolidating the legal services under the Office of the Solicitor General will eliminate redundant, duplicative and overlapping functions since the OSG, OGCC and PCGG only serve one client”•the Republic of the Philippines,” Calida said.