Malacañang says 'no politics' in possible PCGG abolition

MANILA, Philippines – Proposals to abolish the Philippine Commission on Good Government (PCGG) is driven by the need to streamline government, not politics, Malacañang said on Thursday, July 27.

"I think it's a question of streamlining. There's no politics there," Presidential Spokesman Ernesto Abella said in a Palace press briefing on Thursday.

"It's a question of streamlining and being able to consolidate functions so there will be no overlap," he added.

Abella made the statement a day after Budget Secretary Benjamin Diokno bared that the administration was mulling the dissolution of the PCGG, the government agency tasked with recovering the ill-gotten wealth of Ferdinand Marcos, his family, and cronies. (READ: Recovering Marcos' ill-gotten wealth: After 30 years, what?)

The possible abolition, said Diokno, could happen with the passage of the Rightsizing the National Government Act of 2017, one of the bills Duterte identified as priorities of his administration during his second State of the Nation Address.

The House of Representatives passed the bill on third and final reading on Wednesday.

One proposal, said Diokno, is to transfer the PCGG's tasks to the Department of Justice.

President Rodrigo Duterte's  house allies have filed a bill putting the PCGG under the Office of the Solicitor General, an attached agency of the DOJ.

Abella said this was yet another proposal connected to abolishing the PCGG. The current Solicitor General, Jose Calida, is a supporter of the Marcos family.

Asked how the DOJ or OSG will be able to devote enough attention to recovering ill-gotten Marcos wealth alongside their other tasks and cases, Abella said, "Based on the OSG’s position, apparently they can [handle it]."

Duterte had earlier threatened to abolish another agency, the Commission on Human Rights, but Abella said there are no concrete instructions yet following the President's pronouncement.

After all, Abella said, the CHR is an agency created under the 1987 Constitution and cannot be abolished even by legislation.

The President's threat, he said, was borne out of his anger at the apparent "biases" of the CHR.

"It's basically the President simply expressing his frustration regarding the apparent biases of the Commission," said Abella.

While more steps are required to abolish the CHR, Duterte's spokesman said its head, CHR chairman Chito Gascon and the commissioners "serve at the pleasure of the President."

"Technically, they may be replaced at his pleasure," he said.

As chief of a constitutional body, the CHR chairperson can only be replaced upon impeachment. Gascon's term will last until May 5, 2022. – Rappler.com

Pia Ranada

Pia Ranada covers the Office of the President and Bangsamoro regional issues for Rappler. While helping out with desk duties, she also watches the environment sector and the local government of Quezon City. For tips or story suggestions, you can reach her at pia.ranada@rappler.com.

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