By Mario Casayuran
The national government will save time and money if Congress passes a bill abolishing the Office of the Government Corporate Counsel (OGCC) and the Presidential Commission on Good Government (PCGG) and transfer their powers and functions to the Office of the Solicitor General (OSG), Solicitor General Jose Calida said Thursday.
“The best argument (for the merger) is rightsizing of the bureaucracy (because) there is redundancy in the kind of services that these government agencies serve,” Calida said.
Calida rejected claims of critics, especially Senate Minority Leader Franklin Drilon, that there would be a conflict of interest in the merger of these agencies.
If these two other agencies are absorbed by the OSG, “there will be lawyer for the Republic, and there would no longer a conflict of issue to arise,” he added.
Sen. Richard Gordon, however, said the term “rightsizing’’ refers to budgeting,“but this is justice where you get the best (lawyers and staff).’’
Gordon is chairman of the Senate justice and human rights committee that conducted a public hearing Thursday on six Senate bills seeking to strengthen the OSG.
Calida said the OSG has at present 260 lawyers.
Should the PCGG and OGCC be absorbed by the OSG, the OSG will have to create 20 divisions with 11 lawyers per division or a total of 220 new lawyers.
In a position paper, Benjamin E. Diokno, Department of Budget and Management (DBM) secretary, said his office generally supports the intention of the bills seeking to strengthen the OSH in order for it to become more effective and efficient in the performance of its functions.
‘’However, the pursuit of the institutional strengthening of the OSG should be consistent with existing budgeting, organization, staffing, position classification, and compensation policies, rules and regulations,’’ Diokno said.
Antonio T. Kho Jr., Department of Justice (DOJ) undersecretary, strongly objected to the measures strengthening of the OSG because they are considered riders by the Constitution.
Aside from raising the conflict of interest issue against merging the PCGG and OGCC with the OSG, Kho explained that the OSG is currently under the DOJ for budgetary purposes.
Kho said his department does not see the office of the President pressing for the passage off the bills pending before the Gordon committee.
Calida wanted the OSG to become an independent and autonomous office attached to the Office of the President for budgetary purposes.
“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’,’’ Kho explained.
“Merger (of the PCGG and OGCC with the OSG) di puwede (It should not happen). But we will wait for his (Calida’s) recommendation on (the) conflict of interest (issue),’’ Gordon told Senate reporters after his committee hearing.
The Gordon committee will still conduct another public inquiry before deciding to draft a committee report on the various OSG-related bills.