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Editorial

A dangerous bill

/ 05:26 AM March 23, 2018

Even if the Solicitor General were not the most influential Marcos loyalist in high government office, the proposed measure to transfer the powers and responsibilities of the Presidential Commission on Good Government, formed in 1986 to recover the ill-gotten wealth of the Marcoses and their cronies, to the Office of the Solicitor General would still be a terrible idea.

Even if the PCGG had not managed, over the last three decades, to recover over P170 billion in illegally acquired assets accumulated by the family and cronies of the late dictator Ferdinand Marcos, House Bill No. 7376, ostensibly intended for the “further strengthening” of the OSG, would still be an unnecessary and unjustified attempt at shuttering the special agency.

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Even if the Supreme Court had not issued landmark decisions adverse to the Marcoses, the proposed new law, which can only be understood as a downgrading of the previous state policy to recover all ill-gotten wealth of the Marcoses and their cronies as part of the restoration of democracy after the 1986 Edsa Revolution, would still be a dangerous initiative—bad news for the Philippine democratic project.

HB 7376 consolidates six measures, but it retains the thrust of the original bill filed by—and thus
the imprimatur of—Speaker Pantaleon Alvarez and House Majority Leader Rodolfo Fariñas.
This, we should be clear, is official Duterte administration policy.

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The policy falls under the category of improving government efficiency. “It is the declared policy of the State to strengthen the Office of the Solicitor General in order to fulfill its role of upholding the best interest of the government as the Tribune of the People,” the bill reads. “It is also the policy of the State to ensure efficiency and economy in the operations of government, to eliminate the overlapping of functions, to consolidate the legal services in the government into one office … and to concentrate and enhance government efforts for the full and effective recovery of ill-gotten wealth and properties, including the efficient investigation and prosecution of cases relative thereto.”

There’s the rub, because in fact there are still pending cases against the Marcoses and their cronies; as of last year, the number was a staggering 282 cases. Over 30 years after Marcos and his family fled Malacañang Palace ignominiously, over three decades since Marcos and his family arrived in Hawaii with hundreds of millions of dollars in portable assets, the Philippines’ judicial system is still laboring under a Marcos ill-gotten wealth caseload of almost 300 cases. By this fact alone, we should see that there is no justification for the shuttering of the PCGG. If despite three decades, and if in spite of many outstanding legal victories, the special government agency is still pursuing legal cases against the Marcos empire, why would transferring the agency’s functions to an even more overworked agency, the OSG, be even considered efficient?

One clue can be found in the language of the bill’s declaration of policy itself: Marcos is nowhere to be found. To be sure, there is a single reference to Marcos in the bill’s definition of terms. What
this means is that the perfidy of the Marcos years has been sanitized; the administration’s policy
as declared and articulated avoids the very mention of his name.

That is why the proposed law, approved on second reading in the House just last Wednesday, is a terrible idea. It is designed to bury the still-pending cases against the Marcoses in the recesses of the legal bureaucracy. That is also why it is unnecessary and unjustified: Billions of pesos of public money are still at stake. And that is why it is, finally, dangerous to our democracy: It will force the closing of one chapter in the nation’s history before its appropriate time; it will help in the Duterte administration’s ongoing rehabilitation of the reputation of the Marcoses, who plundered the country’s resources and destroyed its democratic institutions; not least, it will place the main responsibility for recovering the rest of the illegally acquired wealth of the Marcoses and their cronies on the leader of the Bongbong Marcos for Vice President campaign.

How can this possibly be deemed to be, to use the language of the bill’s declaration of policy, “in the best interest of the government”?

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TAGS: Marcoses, Presidential Commission on Good Government, Solicitor General
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