Gordon's about-face on PCGG abolition

YES OR NO? Senate justice committee chairman now says he is against the abolition of the PCGG but fails to mention he himself filed a bill for that in December 2017. File Photo by Angie de Silva

YES OR NO? Senate justice committee chairman now says he is against the abolition of the PCGG but fails to mention he himself filed a bill for that in December 2017.

File Photo by Angie de Silva

There seems to be a contradiction between Senator Richard Gordon’s own words and actions on the controversial move to abolish the agency tasked to recover the billions of pesos plundered during the Marcos dictatorship.

On Wednesday, May 16, Gordon said he was against the measure that aims to abolish the Presidential Commission on Good Government (PCGG) and transfer its powers to the Office of the Solicitor General (OSG).

The current chief of the OSG, Solicitor General Jose Calida, is a known Marcos supporter.

“At the moment, I dont think you should abolish it. That is my disposition because you need a special team to go after these people pero kailangan i-motivate sila na bilisan nila. Bigyan mo sila ng timeline para mabilis kasi kung kulang sa abogado nila, hindi nila magagawa talaga 'yan,” said Gordon, chair of the justice committee tasked to lead hearings on the bill.

(That is my disposition because you need a special team to go after these people but you need to motivate them to speed up [the cases]. Give them a timeline to speed up the workd because if they lack lawyers, they really can't do that.) 

But just 5 months ago, Gordon filed a bill that seeks to accomplish the exact opposite of his current pronouncements.

On December 4, 2017, Gordon filed Senate Bill 1626, which seeks to strengthen the OSG by increasing its powers and functions, by absorbing the functions of the PCGG and the Office of the Government Corporate Counsel (OGCC), the principal law office of government-owned and controlled corporations (GOCC).

“The bill seeks to consolidate the [PCGG and OCGG] functions into the OSG in order to achieve efficiency and economy, remove overlapping functions, and to eliminate possibilities of conflict in positions between the government’s law offices,” the explanatory note of Gordon's bill states.

Section 2 of the SB1626 says: “Towards this end, OGCC and PCGG are hereby abolished and their respective powers and functions are transferred to the OSG.”

Five months after he filed the bill, Gordon said the PCGG should remain “independent” and focused on recovering the ill-gotten wealth of the Marcos family.

Dapat independent 'yan. Dapat makuha lahat 'yan. Pag i-u-under mo 'yan diyan [sa OSG], i-a-absorb, mawawala lang (It should be independent. All the ill-gotten wealth should be recovered. If you put PCGG under the OSG, it would just be lost)," he said.

On Tuesday, May 15, the House voted 162-10-0 to approve House Bill 7376, which seeks to strengthen the OSG by increasing its powers and functions, by absorbing the functions of the PCGG and the Office of the Government Corporate Counsel (OGCC).

At the Senate, it is still pending with Gordon's committee. In fact, he said he was already writing the committee report on the proposal.

Minority senators opposed the measure. Senate President Aquilino Pimentel III, meanwhile, backed the PCGG’s abolition. He said the focus should be on strengthening the OSG itself, and not Calida. 

What might have caused Gordon's about-face? A check on his previous statements on the proposed abolition of the PCGG would show that much earlier – in February this year – he had already expressed reservations about the objectives of his own bill, citing concerns over conflict of interest in relation to Calida.

Gordon also said recently that the bill is unlikely to muster enough support in the Senate. The Duterte administration supports the abolition of the PCGG, which Budget Secretary Benjamin Diokno described as a non-performing agency. – Rappler.com

Camille Elemia

Camille Elemia is Rappler's lead reporter for media, disinformation, and democracy. She won an ILO award in 2017. She received the prestigious Fulbright-Hubert Humphrey fellowship in 2019, allowing her to further study media and politics in the US. Email camille.elemia@rappler.com

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