Gov't corporate counsel hits bill making SolGen 'superior' to DOJ

MANILA, Philippines – Government Corporate Counsel Rudolf Jurado slammed the House bill seeking to expand the powers of the Office of the Solicitor General (OSG) to go after ill-gotten wealth and oversee government owned and controlled corporations (GOCCs).

Jurado, head of the Office of the Government Corporate Counsel (OGCC), released a statement criticizing House Bill (HB) Number 5233.

The measure aims to transfer the OGCC and the Presidential Commission on Good Government (PCGG) under the office of Solicitor General Jose Calida.

The bill also seeks to remove the Solicitor General's office as an attached agency of the Department of Justice (DOJ) and instead put it under the Office of the President. 

"Citing the absurdity of the OSG's proposed role as the overseer of legal policies of line agencies and GOCCs, the OGCC pointed out that the OSG appears to want a law that would make the Solicitor General [more] superior than the Justice Secretary [Vitaliano Aguirre II]," said Jurado in a statement.  

HB 5233 would upgrade the qualifications for appointment, rank, category, prerogatives, compensation, benefits, and privileges of the Solicitor General, making him equal to that of an Associate Justice at the Supreme Court.

The OSG would also be allowed to increase the number of its legal divisions from at least 30 to at least 50, with every division composed of at least 10 lawyers.

But Jurado said doing so would require the government to increase the OSG's budget to a "staggering" P1.3 billion. The OSG has a budget of P600,911,000 for 2017. 

"The additional budget for salaries, allowances, and non-monetary benefits of these additional posts alone would already cost P450 million – almost double the combined budgets of the OGCC and PCGG – and would increase the OSG budget to a staggering P1.3 billion," said Jurado.

He added that the money might be better off allotted for socioeconomic programs like annual milk feeding programs for about 140,000 malnourished primary school children as well as the construction of 200 to 300 classrooms every year. 

HB 5233 was co-authored by Speaker Pantaleon Alvarez, Majority Leader Rodolfo Fariñas, and House justice committee chairperson Reynaldo Umali. – Rappler.com

Mara Cepeda

Mara Cepeda writes about politics and women’s rights for Rappler. She covers the House of Representatives and the Office of the Vice President. Got tips? Send her an email at mara.cepeda@rappler.com or shoot her a tweet @maracepeda.

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