SOURCE: Press and Public Affairs Bureau
The House of Representatives ratified the bicameral conference committee report on House Bill 7376 and Senate Bill 1823, seeking to strengthen the Office of the Solicitor General (OSG) by increasing its powers and functions and augmenting its employee benefits.
HB 7376 is principally authored by Rep. Pantaleon Alvarez (1st District, Davao del Norte), while SB 1823 is principally authored by Sen. Francis Escudero.
The ratified measure seeks to amend Republic Act 9417, which strengthened the OSG by expanding and streamlining its bureaucracy, upgrading employee skills and augmenting benefits in 2006, and Executive Order 292, instituting the "Administrative Code of 1987".
The ratified measure mandates the OSG to be an independent and autonomous office attached to the Department of Justice. The OSG shall be headed by the Solicitor General, who will act as the law officer and legal defender of the government.
One of the powers and functions of the OSG introduced by the measure, as amendment to EO 292, is that the OSG shall, subject to the approval of the President, engage the services of a counsel to assist in the discharge of its duties and responsibilities in cases requiring highly specialized legal skills, knowledge, or expertise in foreign and international arbitrations and litigations. The engagement of such counsel shall be exempt from the coverage of procurement laws.
The OSG shall also enter into any contract or transaction for the acquisition, ownership, possession, administration, lease, disposition, or acceptance of real or personal property, or any interest therein, in its name.
Finally, the OSG shall provide a legal internship program for law students.
The measure also details the standards, qualifications, salaries, and benefits of the Solicitor General, Assistant Solicitor General, Senior State Solicitor, State Solicitor II, State Solicitor I, Associate Solicitor II, and Associate Solicitor I.
A new section shall be introduced in RA 9417, which provides for the retirement benefits of the Solicitor General, Assistant Solicitor General, Senior State Solicitor, State Solicitor II, and State Solicitor I who have rendered at least 15 years of service in the OSG or in any other branch of the government, or in both.
Whether they retire for having attained the age of 65 or resign by reason of their incapacity to discharge the duties of their office, they shall receive during the residue of their natural life a retirement pension based on the highest monthly salary, plus the highest monthly aggregate of transportation, living and transportation allowances, which they were receiving at the time of their retirement.
When they have attained the age of 60 and have rendered at least 15 years of service in government, the last five of which must have been rendered in the OSG, they shall be entitled to retire and receive the same benefits. Those with less than 15 years of service in the government shall be entitled to a pro-rata pension.
All pension benefits of retired Solicitors General, Assistant Solicitors General, and State Solicitors, shall be automatically increased whenever there is an increase in the salary and allowance in the same position from which they retired.
Other amendments introduced by the ratified measure to RA 9147 are death and survivorship benefits.
In case a Solicitor General to a State Solicitor I dies while in actual service, regardless of his or her age and length of service as required in previous sections on benefits, his or her heirs shall receive a lump sum of five years of gratuity computed on the basis of the highest monthly salary plus the highest aggregate of transportation, living, and representation allowances received by the concerned solicitor. However, if the solicitor has rendered at least 15 years in government service, his or het heirs shall be entitled to a lump sum of 10 years gratuity computed on the same basis.
Meanwhile, if a State Solicitor or Assistant Solicitor General or Senior State Solicitor dies during his or her retirement, his or her surviving legitimate spouse and dependent children shall be entitled to receive all the retirement benefits the solicitor was receiving or entitled to receive.
The ratified measure also provides for capacity development. In order to build and develop the capability of the OSG, the Solicitor General may authorize OSG lawyers to travel anywhere in the Philippines and abroad to attend seminars, fora, conferences, or lectures on different areas of law, pleadings, and practice in international courts, tribunals, public-private partnerships, and public corporate governance, among others. The Solicitor General may further authorize the administrative staff of the OSG to undergo relevant training to improve their skills. | Czarina Engracia