Duterte vetoes bill strengthening Office of the Solicitor General

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Metro Manila (CNN Philippines, March 15) — The bill strengthening the Office of the Solicitor General (OSG) takes a backseat as President Rodrigo Duterte rejected the provision to increase its employees' benefits.

In his letter to both houses of Congress released Friday, Duterte said he was "contrained to veto" the bill as one of its provisions -- granting benefits beyond the current compensation framework -- would be "too onerous" for the government.

The President said this "would erode the national government's thrust to standardize and rationalize the current compensation framework in the bureaucracy, create "too much disparity and inequality" among public servants in the executive branch, and "undermine the principle of 'equal pay for work of equal value'."

"I thus urge Congress to prioritize reviewing this measure once again so that our shared objective of strengthening the OSG would be realized without undermining other equally vital fiscal and policy considerations," Duterte said.

He stressed that he is for strengthening the OSG, the office of the government's top lawyer, currently led by Jose Calida. Earlier, the House of Representatives' version wanted the OSG to replace and effectively abolish the Presidential Commission on Good Government, the agency tasked to recover alleged ill-gotten wealth of the late President Ferdinand Marcos.

The bicameral conference committee, however rejected the provision, along with the proposal to also abolish the Office of the Government Corporate Counsel, which is "the principal and statutory law office" of government-owned-and-controlled corporations, their subsidiaries and government financial institutions, among others.

Meanwhile, critics fear the proposed measure will only make the OSG more powerful, following the ouster Maria Lourdes Sereno as Chief Justice. It was Calida who filed the quo warranto petition to remove Sereno from office. This was approved by the Supreme Court in a historic 2018 ruling, making Sereno the first impeachable official to be removed from office without a Senate trial.