By Charissa Luci-Atienza
The House Committee on Ways and Means unanimously approved on Tuesday, January 21, a substitute bill authorizing the Government Corporate Counsel (OGCC) to receive 20 percent of the money claims collected by, awarded, or adjudged to government corporations, in addition to the attorney's fees awarded by a court, tribunal, or panel, to provide benefits and incentives to its employees.
House of the Representatives (ALVIN KASIBAN / MANILA BULLETIN / FILE PHOTO)
In less than 12 minutes, the House panel, presided by its vice-chairperson Nueva Ecija Rep. Estrellita Suansing, passed the non-tax revenue provision of the proposed “OGCC Charter”.
It was Ilocos Sur Rep. Kristine Singson-Meehan who moved for the approval of the six-page and still unnumbered substitute bill.
Before the panel approved the measure, Deputy Speaker and Misamis Occidental Rep. Henry Oaminal, one of the principal authors of the bill, appealed to the House panel to pass the bill, which seeks to reorganize and strengthen the OGCC.
"The bill calls for the strengthening of the OGCC by professionalizing its organization and upgrading the compensation benefits and increasing the number of positions in the OGCC," he said.
He noted that the six-page unnumbered substitute bill was "properly deliberated" by the House Committee on Justice chaired by Leyte Rep. Vicente Veloso.
The Veloso panel approved the bill in November last year.
"I am sure we will not object to the upgrading of the salary grade of the OGCC employees and officials and the increase in the number of the positions because that is badly needed," Oaminal said.
"On the other hand, there are no tax exemption benefits in so far as this bill is concerned," he said.
The panel specifically passed Section 10 of the proposed “OGCC Charter.” The provision provides that OGCC is authorized to receive 20 percent of the money claims collected by, awarded, or adjudged to government corporations, in addition to the attorney's fees awarded by a court, tribunal, or panel, including awards or judgments stipulated under court-approved compromise agreements.
"The OGCC is hereby authorized to use such awards and attorney's fees to meet contingencies, obligations, and undertakings or for employee benefits and incentives, necessary or proper to promote efficiency in the service as determined by the GCC (Government Corporate Counsel), " according to the numbered substitute bill.
The substitute bill authorizes the GCC "to make special assessments upon government corporations and to disburse and use the same for such contingencies, obligations, and undertakings, and to provide for employees' benefits and incentives allowed under the law."
It provides that all awards, attorney's fees, and special assessments shall be deposited in an authorized government depository and shall be made available for expenditure without the need for a cash disbursement ceiling for purposes of meeting obligations and contingencies, upgrading facilities and equipment, granting of employees' benefits and incentives, and defraying such other expenses not provided for in the General Appropriations Act, subject to accounting and auditing procedures.
The proposed OGCC Charter provides that all government corporations shall refer to the OGCC the following: all important legal questions for opinion and advice; all contracts for review; and all cases for representation before regular courts, quasi-judicial bodies, administrative agencies, and arbitral tribunals.
The OGCC shall exercise control and supervision over all the legal departments of all government corporations and conduct periodic performance audit; conciliate, mediate, act as hearing officers or adjudicate all disputes on controversies exclusively between government corporations; investigate and in appropriate cases, hear administrative disciplinary cases involving all lawyers, officials, and employees of government corporations, among others.
The measure provides that the Government Corporate Counsel (GCC) shall have the rank, salary, allowances, retirement and pension benefits, emoluments, prerogatives and privileges of the Presiding Justice of the Court of Appeals (CA).
The GCC shall be assisted by a Deputy Government Corporate Counsel (DGCC) and 12 Assistant Government Corporate Counsel (AGCC), who shall have the rank, salary, allowances, retirement and pension benefits, emoluments, prerogatives and privileges of an Associate Justice of the CA.
There shall be 16 Government Corporate Attorney (GCA) IV who shall have compensation benefits, prerogatives, and privileges of a Regional Trial Court Judge.
From 14, the number of GCA III shall be increased to 19 and shall receive salary and other benefits similar to that of a Metropolitan Trial Court Judge.
Under the proposed Charter, there shall be 20 GCA II from the current 17 who shall be natural-born citizens of the Philippines and have been engaged in the practice of law in the country for at least three years.
The present four GCA I shall be increased to 12 who shall be natural-born citizens of the Philippines and have been engaged in the practice of law in the country for at least one year.
The salary grades for the basic monthly compensation of the OGCC legal personnel shall be as follows: Government Corporate Counsel, Salary Grade 31; Deputy Government Corporate Counsel and Assistant Government Corporate Counsel, SG 30; GCA IV, SG 29; GCA III, SG 28; GCA II, SG 27; GCA I, SG 26.