by PhilRights Staff

Welcome to HR Insights, a weekly roundup of human rights news in the Philippines. This week…

Bill Abolishing PCGG, OGCC Passes in Congress

The Philippine Star reports that the House of Representatives has passed a bill abolishing the Presidential Commission on Good Governance (PCGG) and the Office of Government Corporate Counsel (OGCC).  The duties and responsibilities of the offices will be moved to the Office of the Solicitor General (OSG).

This bill would effectively broaden the power of the Solicitor General. It must be noted that the OSG was the office that filed the controversial Quo Warranto against the former Supreme Court Justice Sereno. This bill is not yet law as Senate has yet to pass their own version.

Malacañan insists that this consolidation of responsibilities and powers will not get in the way of recovering ill-gotten wealth, according to a Philippine Star report. Harry Roque was quoted saying “There is no revisionism there because the work of the PCGG will be continued by the Office of the Solicitor General.”

There has been a lot of criticism against the abolishing of the PCGG and OGCC.

Business Mirror reports that the Department of Justice (DOJ) published a notice saying that it is their position that PCGG and OGCC should remain under DOJ supervision rather dissolved and responsibilities transferred to the OSG. The DOJ cited that the OGCC and OSG can sometimes have conflicting interests.

Meanwhile, Vice President Leni Robledo expressed concern that Solicitor General Jose Calida would be handling the cases to recover the Marcos plunder, as per the Philippine Star. She has said she hopes the senate version would not pass.

Also denouncing the bill is the Samahan ng Ex-Detainees Laban sa Detensyon at Aresto (SELDA), a group of Marcos-era political detainees. SELDA chairperson Trinidad Repuno was quoted  by the Philippine Star as saying, “transferring the PCGG functions to a government agency headed by a Marcos apologist like Solicitor General Jose Calida is lunacy to say the least, but what can you expect from Malacañang?”

Monsod: Quo Warranto Reasoning a “blatant exhibition of arrogance”

ABS-CBN reports that lawyer and member of the 1986 Constitutional Commission Christian Monsod denounced the removal of Sereno saying that Chief Justice can only be removed through impeachment. Monsod said that impeachment should be an extraordinary and difficult way of removing an official and the reasoning used by the solicitor general was the “lowest kind of reasoning” and a “blatant exhibition of arrogance.”

The Philippine Star also reports that the Senate resolution drafted by the minority calls out the Supreme Court for its alleged abuse of power. Members of the majority such as Majority Leader Vicente Sotto III and Senator Manny Pacquiao said they would not sign the resolution because that may be seen as interfering with the Supreme Court.

SolGen Requests 60-day Extension to Submit War on Drugs Data

The Office of the Solicitor General has asked for a 60-day extension for the submission of the documents related on the war on drugs, according to Rappler. It can be recalled that the Supreme Court has ordered the government to turn in all documentation of its anti-illegal drugs campaign. Critics are now warning that delays could allow the falsification of documents.

The case is also being watched by the International Criminal Court (ICC). The ICC Prosecutor Fatou Bensouda would have jurisdiction if it finds the Philippine high court unwilling or unable to investigate the killings.

Speaking of the ICC, opposition senators have submitted a petition for certiorari—a request for judicial review—for President Duterte’s order of unilateral withdrawal from the ICC. According to a Rappler report, the senators argued that the withdrawal from the Rome Statute needs to undergo the same process as signing it which means having the “concurrence of at least two-thirds of all members of the Senate” under Article VII of the 1987 Constitution.

ABS-CBN reports however that Presidential Spokesperson Harry Roque said that the petition would be invalid or ineffective. Roque is confident the Supreme Court would side with the President because it is the Executive branch that primarily deals with foreign policy.

Suspects in the Carl and Kulot Murders Charged in Navotas

The Manila Bulletin is reporting that Police Officers 1 Jeffrey Perez and Ricky Arquilita were charged with murder in a Navotas court. The two policemen are accused of murdering  Carl Angelo Arnaiz, 19, and Reynaldo ‘Kulot’ De Guzman, 14, late last year.

The murder charges were previously dismissed due to lack of jurisdiction but the charges were allowed to be filed again at the Navotas court which had the jurisdiction.

Both murder victims were accused of firing at police. Critics believe that the victims’ supposed crimes were staged.

MUST READ: PCIJ analyzes how barangays navigate the drug war

The Philippine Center for Investigative Journalism (PCIJ) Story Project published a new story that details how three different barangay officials resist, submit, or adapt to the deadly drug war in Tondo, Manila.

A collaborative multimedia story, the piece immerses the reader on the difficult choices that these community leaders have to make as they grapple with the consequences of their participation in the government’s deadly campaign against illegal drugs.

Read the story here.

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