By Ben Rosario
The House of Representatives approved on third and final reading Tuesday a bill abolishing the Presidential Commission on Good Government and the Office of the Government Corporate Counsel.
Congressmen also approved on final reading House Bill No. 7436 that will abolish the Road Board, a graft-ridden agency which is in charge of the distribution and management of the Motor Vehicle User’s Tax collection.
With 162 affirmative and ten negative votes, the Lower House approved House Bill 7376 that also granted additional powers to the Office of the Solicitor General that only last week won a historic Supreme Court ruling that ousted Chief Justice Maria Lourdes Sereno.
Of the ten dissenters to HB 7376, seven were members of the Makabayan bloc that aired serious misgiving in making the OSG more powerful.
HB 7376 is a consolidation of six different legislative measures, is expected to be approved on final reading when regular Congress session resumes in May.
Aside from Speaker Pantaleon Alvarez, other principal authors of the measure are Reps. Evelina G. Escudero (NPC, Sorsogon); Gary Alejano (Magdalo Partylist); Joaquin Chipeco Jr. (NP, Laguna); and Reynaldo Umali (PDP-Laban, Mindoro Oriental).
Under the bill, the OGCC and PCGG will be abolished and their functions transferred to the OSG.
Authors stressed that the PCGG’s role of enhancing government efforts to recover ill-gotten wealth and prosecute erring parties will now be transferred to the OSG.
Likewise, OGCC principal responsibility of providing for the legal needs of state-owned and –controlled corporations
The bill provides that OGCC and PCGG personnel who may not be absorbed into the new OSG staffing pattern due to redundancy or failure to comply with the standard of competence and proficiency in the new office shall be given the option to avail of retirement and separation packages.
Among the key provisions of the bill is the creation of 50 legal divisions of at least ten lawyers and necessary personnel.
The OSG will be an independent and autonomous office attached to the Office of the President. It will be headed by the Solicitor General and will discharge of its functions as the “principal law officer and legal defender of the government.”
In proposing the measure, Alvarez stressed the need to consolidate the functions of the OSG, G=OGCC and the PCGG in order “to achieve economy, eliminate overlapping of functions, address the expanding needs of GOCCS for legal representation and enhance government efforts to recover ill-gotten wealth and investigate and prosecute cases.”
“The consolidation of legal services of the OSG will specifically promote the wiser and more prudent use of public funds since this will do away with the practice of the OGCC of billing clients GOCC’s for legal services rendered,” he said.
HB 7436 transfers the functions of the Road Board, including its funds, rights, obligations, and liabilities, to the Department of Public Works and Highways.
A consolidation of at least 12 different bills, HB 7436 seeks to “ensure the prudent management and utilization of the Road User’s Tax, to curb the instances of fund misuse, misappropriation and general graft, and corruption.”
Aside from abolishing the Road Board, the bill also provides that the Special Pollution Control Fund will be used for programs and projects for the control and supervision of air pollution and solid waste management.