Conflict of interest issue raised on OGCC abolition

Published March 6, 2018, 3:13 PM

by Francine Ciasico

By Jeffrey Damicog

The Office of the Solicitor General (OSG) will face the dilemma of serving opposing sides of an issue if ever it assumes the functions of the Office of the Government Corporate Counsel (OGCC).

This is what state-owned Philippine Export Import Credit Agency General Counsel and Officer-in-Charge Isabelo Gumaru warned as he expressed opposition to bills seeking to abolish the OGCC and to have it absorbed under the OSG.

(Credit: ogcc.gov.ph/ MANILA BULLETIN)
(Credit: ogcc.gov.ph/ MANILA BULLETIN)

“The OSG cannot serve two masters; sa madaling salita, hindi sya pwedeng mamangka sa dalawang ilog (in other words, it cannot row in two lakes),” Gumaru said in a statement yesterday (March 6).

“This would be like a private law firm representing opposite sides in the same case,” he pointed out.

Citing Canon 15 of the Code of Professional Responsibility, the lawyer said that it states that a lawyer “shall observe candor, fairness, and loyalty in all his dealings and transactions with his clients.”

He added the Code provides that “a lawyer shall not represent conflicting interests” and “in conferring with a prospective client, shall ascertain as soon as practicable whether the matter would involve a conflict with another client or his own interest.”

“The OSG proposal would make it the statutory counsel of both the Republic and the government corporate entities which it regulates, and we know from experience that there are numerous instances wherein the national government and GOCCs find themselves on opposing sides of a legal issue,” Gumaru pointed out.

“If the OGCC were to be abolished, we would have a scenario wherein lawyers from the same office represent both entities involved in a legal dispute. This would be unethical and improper; a clear violation of our Code of Professional Responsibility,” he stated.

Gumaru noted that at the moment there are an estimated 400 pending cases between the OSG and the OGCC.

These include cases where the OSG represents government instrumentalities like the Bureau of Internal (BIR) and Commission on Audit (COA) on one hand, and government-owned and controlled corporations (GOCCs) represented by the OGCC on the other.

 
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