By Jeffrey Damicog
Justice Secretary Menardo Guevarra weighed in on the proposed abolition of the Presidential Commission on Good Government (PCGG) and maintained that the sequestering agency and the Office of the Government Corporate Counsel (OGCC) be placed under the supervision of the Justice department.
Guevarra made his stand after the House of Representatives (HOR) approved on Tuesday House Bill 7376 strengthening the Office of the Solicitor General (OSG) by absorbing the functions of the PCGG and OGCCwhich will be abolished.
“We respect the action of the HOR,” the Secretary said in a text message.
“But we’ll maintain our position to keep PCGG and the OGCC under the wings of the DOJ (Department of Justice),” said Guevarra.
The OSG is also under the DOJ but will become a separate agency once the bill becomes law.
Guevarra admitted that he has not discussed the bill with President Rodrigo Duterte who could stop the measure through a veto.
“Malayo pa namanyan (It’s still not an immediate issue). No counterpart bill in the Senate,” he pointed out.
Several senators have already expressed their opposition against the bill.
The Senate Committee on Justice, chaired by Sen. Richard Gordon, likewise do not favor the transfer of the powers of the PCGG to the OSG saying such a transfer “is the quickest way to forget” the recovery of the alleged billions of pesos of ill-gotten wealth of the Marcos family.
Senate Minority Leader Franklin Drilon is likewise opposed to the move saying PCGG remains an important agency and thus should be maintained and strengthened.
“I oppose it. I am taking into position that there will be difficulties if we abolish the PCGG and the Office of the Government Corporate Council,” Drilon said.
Sen. Paolo Aquino IV, for his part said if the Duterte government is serious in eradicating corruption, it should work to strengthen the PCGG rather than abolish it.
Meanwhile, Guevarra welcomed the idea of arming state prosecutors to better protect themselves from threats following the death of Quezon City Deputy City Prosecutor Rogelio Velasco.
Velasco is the fifth prosecutor to be killed under the Duterte administration.
“I will support prosecutors getting firearm for self-defense,” Guevarra said in a statement.
Former Integrated Bar of the Philippines (IBP) commissioner now 1-Ang Edukasyon party-list Rep. Salvador Belaro Jr. urged the DOJ to provide state prosecutors with bullet-proof vests and other protective devices following Velasco’s death.
“I wish we had a budget for body armor,” Guevarra lamented.
“For now we can only wear the breastplate of righteousness and the full armor of God,” said Guevarra.