Duterte vetoes bill expanding powers of Solicitor General's office

MANILA, Philippines – President Rodrigo Duterte has vetoed the bill expanding the powers of the Office of the Solicitor General, saying its provisions on increasing officials' compensation and benefits are too much.

"I am apprehensive that the provisions thereof granting benefits beyond the current compensation framework for other government offices may prove to be too onerous to the government," said Duterte in his veto message.

The veto message was dated March 7 but was released to the media a week later on Friday, March 15.

Duterte said that the proposed law would give OSG officials vastly higher benefits than officials from other government offices, departing from the government's goal to standardize and rationalize its compensation system.

"It will create too much disparity and inequality among the public servants in the Executive Branch," said Duterte.

He added that the proposed benefits "undermine the principle of 'equal pay for work of equal value.'"

President Rodrigo Duterte vetoes bill expanding powers of Office of Solicitor General citing problems with its provisions on employee compensation, benefits. @rapplerdotcom pic.twitter.com/a9TOeftANe — Pia Ranada (@piaranada) March 15, 2019

What's in the proposed measure? The bill provides for bigger benefits for OSG officials in order to attract lawyers to join the office.

In the House version, the Solicitor General is given the same salary grade, privileges, retirement benefits, and other benefits as a Supreme Court associate justice. An assistant solicitor general will have the same salary grade, privileges, and benefits of a Court of Appeals associate justice.

Similar provisions are provided for other OSG officials like associate solicitors.

As for the Senate version, new perks include "retirement benefits equivalent to those received by the National Prosecution Service, lump sum gratuities, and death benefits for senior officials of the OSG," according to a Senate press release.

Solicitor General Jose Calida had supported the bill, which also had the backing of former Speaker Pantaleon Alvarez, a Duterte ally.

Former government corporate counsel Rudolf Jurado had opposed the bill, citing repercussions on the government's budget.

Jurado had said that the bill, if made into law, would increase the OSG's budget to a "staggering" P1.3 billion. The OSG had a budget of P600,911,000 in 2017. – Rappler.com

Pia Ranada

Pia Ranada covers the Office of the President and Bangsamoro regional issues for Rappler. While helping out with desk duties, she also watches the environment sector and the local government of Quezon City. For tips or story suggestions, you can reach her at pia.ranada@rappler.com.