Duterte gov’t plans to abolish agency going after Marcos ill-gotten wealth

July 26, 2017 - 10:28 PM
Reuters file photo of President Rodrigo Duterte and the late President Ferdinand Marcos.

MANILA, Philippines – The Duterte administration is thinking of abolishing the agency that goes after the ill-gotten wealth of the Marcoses.

This was disclosed on Wednesday by Department of Budget and Management (DBM) Secretary Benjamin Diokono, who said the plan to stop the operations of the Presidential Commission on Good Government (PCGG) was part of a bigger proposal to downsize the executive branch.

“There are many specific recommendations for policy actions under the rightsizing bill. One such proposal is to abolish the PCGG and to transfer its remaining activities to the Department of Justice,” said Diokno.

The bill that Diokno was referring to was approved by the House of Representatives on third and final reading on Wednesday, two days after President Rodrigo Duterte, during his second State of the Nation Address, urged lawmakers to pass the measure.

House Bill No. 5707 or the proposed Rightsizing the National Government Act seeks to grant Duterte the power to eliminate redundant, duplicate, and overlapping functions in all offices under the executive branch to “improve public service delivery.”

Diokno said the decision on PCGG’s abolition would be made by a committee that would be chaired by Executive Secretary Salvador Medialdea.

“All decisions by the committee will be in the nature of an executive order to be signed by the President,” the DBM chief added.

A separate report by Agence France-Presse (AFP) on Wednesday quoted Diokno as saying that the administration was thinking of abolishing the commission because it was no longer accomplishing anything.

“They don’t do anything. What do they do?” Diokno reportedly said.

The first executive order issued by President Corazon Aquino in 1986 after her predecessor Ferdinand Marcos was toppled via a popular uprising was the creation of the PCGG.

Among the commission’s primary tasks are to recover all the ill-gotten wealth accumulated by Marcos, his immediate family, relatives, subordinates and close associates and prosecute and litigate cases involving said assets.

The PCGG is also mandated to sequester all business enterprises and entities owned or controlled by the Marcoses and their associates during the administration of the late strongman.

In November last year, then PCGG acting chairman Reynold Munsayac was quoted in a news report as saying that the commission was hoping that it would be able to recover more ill-gotten wealth out of the 282 pending cases against the Marcoses and their associates.

The PCGG’s 30-year search for Marcos wealth has so far yielded a total of P170 billion worth of cash and assets.

The commission estimates that the Marcoses and their associates had stolen a total of about $10 billion (P500 billion) during the strongman’s two-decade rule.

In May this year, Munsayac submitted to Congress a position paper opposing the call of the Office of the Solicitor General (OSG) to abolish the PCGG because it was already irrelevant. Munsayac was replaced last February by John Agcaoili Agbayani, a former faculty member of the San Beda College.

“There is no basis for the OSG’s insistence that the PCGG has rendered itself irrelevant, and that the consolidation of the PCGG’s function with the OSG will promote government efficiency and enhance government efforts to recover ill-gotten wealth and prosecute cases,” the paper read.

House Bill 5233 earlier filed by Speaker Pantaleon Alvarez, Majority Leaders Rodolfo Farinas, and House Committee on Justice chair Reynaldo Umali sought to give PCGG’s functions to the OSG headed by Jose Calida.

The OSG chief was among the leaders of the Alyansang Duterte-Bongbong or AlDuB who last year campaigned for then presidential candidate Duterte and vice presidential bet Ferdinand “Bobgbong” Marcos Jr.