AT least five of Cebu’s 10 district lawmakers supported the bill that will abolish the Presidential Commission on Good Government (PCGG) and transfer its functions to the Office of the Solicitor General.
Two lawmakers said they did not make it to the session last May 15, when the House of Representatives approved House Bill 7376, but they were listed among its 74 authors in the congressional website.
All told, 162 members of the House voted for the bill, while 10 voted against it. The bill was meant to correct overlapping functions and to consolidate all offices that represent the Government in legal proceedings.
Apart from the PCGG, the Office of the Government Corporate Counsel will also be abolished, and its functions and qualified personnel transferred to the Office of the Solicitor General (OSG).
Listed among the 74 principal authors are House Speaker Pantaleon Alvarez, Deputy Speaker Gwen Garcia, Cebu City Reps. Rodrigo Abellanosa and Raul del Mar, and Reps. Peter John Calderon and Gerald Anthony Gullas Jr.
In separate interviews, Gullas he wasn’t able to vote because he was sick last Tuesday, while Calderon said he was absent. Gullas and Calderon represent the first and seventh congressional districts in Cebu Province.
Congressman del Mar, in a phone interview, said he voted for HB 7376 because he believed that the PCGG has “already done what they’re capable of doing.”
While he “appreciated the good job” the commission has done, he also thinks “a new head might produce better results.” Del Mar said he had not heard any strong objection to abolishing the PCGG from anyone, including former PCGG chair Andres Bautista, with whom he served on the board of the United Coconut Planters Bank.
The congressman emphasized he was “strongly opposed” to Solicitor General Jose Calida’s filing of the quo warranto petition that eventually led to the ouster of Chief Justice Maria Lourdes Sereno last May 11 by eight of her colleagues in the Supreme Court.
“That is unconstitutional. But my voting ‘yes’ (to the abolition of the PCGG) is not inconsistent with my position...I cannot vote ‘no’ on the basis of suspicion that he is close to the Marcoses,” del Mar said. “I don’t think he would favor any person, family or group who is the subject of an investigation and recovery proceedings involving ill-gotten assets.”
As the first act of her presidency, Corazon Aquino created the PCGG last Feb. 28, 1986 to recover all ill-gotten wealth accumulated by Ferdinand Marcos, his immediate family, cronies, and dummies.
On its 30th anniversary in 2016, the PCGG reported that it had recovered about P170 billion so far. Estimates of what Marcos and his cronies amassed range from P230 to P464 billion, according to Transparency International. One of the PCGG’s biggest victories came in 2004, when the Supreme Court ruled to forfeit some US$658 million in the Swiss deposits of the Marcoses.
In August 2017, the PCGG said in a statement to Interaksyon.com that it had remitted P357 million, which was more than its full-year target of P336 million, even before the year was over. It also said that from 2011 to 2016, it recovered, on average, some P12 billion, which meant that for every P1 it spent, it had recovered P130.19.
The newly approved OSG Charter provides for the creation of 50 legal divisions, with each division headed by an assistant solicitor general and staffed with at least 10 lawyers. The OSG is supposed to “continue handling cases relative to the recovery of ill-gotten wealth and behest loans.”
Congressman Del Mar said he looked forward to solicitor general’s office “pursuing the effort (to recover ill-gotten wealth from the Marcoses and their cronies) and succeeding. Where the PCGG gained ground, I hope they will follow through and accomplish more.” (JKV, IDA)