Senators back bill to strengthen Office of Government Corporate Counsel

Published June 23, 2021, 2:37 PM

by Mario Casayuran

The Senate justice and human rights committee will will fine-tune through the technical working group (TWG) process a bill seeking to strengthen the Office of the Government Corporate Counsel (OGCC) by rationalizing and further professionalizing its organization and upgrading its positions.

Senator Richard J. Gordon announced this schedule after conducting today a hybrid public hearing on four bills filed by Senate President Vicente C. Sotto III and Senators Juan Edgardo ‘’Sonny’’ M. Angara, Ronald ‘’Bato’’ dela Rosa and Ramon Revilla Jr. on the same issue.

After the TWG process, Gordon said his committee would then draft its report for submission and debate on the Senate session hall after both the Senate and the House of Representatives resume regular session.

The regular session will take place a day after President Duterte’s delivery of his ‘’State of the Nation Address’’ (SONA) on July 26.

Senate Minority Leader Franklin M. Drilon, and Senators Gordon and Francis Tolentino fired probing questions at former Justice Elpidio Vega, OGCC chairman, on the need for OGGC lawyers to be paid at par with government lawyers at the Office of the Solicitor General and Department of Justice; and on proposals to increase its corps of lawyers from the current number of 135 to 240, among others.

Replying to Godon’s query on whether the OGCC is recruiting for its corps of lawyers from top-notch law schools such as UP, Ateneo and dela Salle, Vega said: ‘’Yes.’’

‘’We try hard to win cases for the government,’’ Vega added.

Angara, chairman of the Senate finance committee, said the Office of the Government Corporate Counsel (OGCC) acts as the statutory counsel of about 714 government-owned or controlled corporations (GOCCs), government instrumentalities exercising corporate powers, Government Financial institutions (GFIs) and government corporate entities, their subsidiaries and corporate offsprings as well as economic zones, state universities and water districts all over the country.

Its responsibilities cover all the legal affairs of all the GOCCs and it handles special tasks for them including the exercise of control and supervision over all their legal departments. Its mandate has been further reinforced in subsequent executive issuances to effectively provide legal counsel to the GOCCs in their operations.

‘’The strengthening of the OGCC is long overdue,’’ Angara pointed out.

Angara said the existing organizational structure and personnel complement of OGCC was formulated way back in 1978 and has not been amended and improved since then despite the increasing work performed by the OGCC in discharging its mandate.

‘’To ensure that OGCC shall be able to adapt to the changing conditions, the increase in the number of its personnel and corresponding adjustment in their compensation and benefits is inevitable.

For decades, the legal guidance and assistance provided by the OGCC by way of legal representations, legal opinions, drafting and review of contracts, performance of special tasks the exercise of control and supervision over its legal departments, enabled the GOCCs to more efficiently perform their respective mandates within the bounds of the law,’’ he said.

‘’With OGCC as statutory counsel, GOCCs do not need to engage private lawyers to address their legal requirements. The GOCCs are able to generate savings and utilize its much needed funds for its core purposes, which would otherwise be allocated for legal fees of private lawyers if OGCC has not existed,’’ he added.

‘’With the growth in the number of GOCCs coupled with the complexities of their requirements brought by the modern business situations and conditions, the increase in the request for the legal services of OGCC, not only in terms of volume, but also the nature of the services required, call for specialization and expertise in specific fields of law,’’ he added.

Angara emphasized that the officials and employees of OGCC who are entrusted with the legal concerns of the GOCCs need to be properly equipped and be adequately compensated to effectively fulfill their duties and responsibilities.

‘’In line with the principle of National Government’s thrust to standardize and rationalize the current compensation framework in the bureaucracy, the positions, salaries and benefits of the lawyers and administrative staff of the OGCC should be at par with the salary grades, positions, salaries and benefits of its counterparts in the Department of Justice performing similar functions and providing similar legal service,’’ he said.