TWO SENATORS on Monday called for the resignation of Solicitor General Jose C. Calida following reports on government contracts his family’s security firm bagged since he has been in his position.
The resignation calls came on the same day Mr. Calida visited the Senate, which also coincided with the meeting of the Senate committee on rules regarding the Senate resolution on the Supreme Court’s quo warranto decision that ousted Chief Justice Maria Lourdes P.A. Sereno.
Sought for comment on the alleged government contracts, a visibly irked Mr. Calida told reporters: “I will defend myself in the proper forum, not here.”
Senators Francis N. Pangilinan and Risa N. Hontiveros-Baraquel, in separate statements, said Mr. Calida’s resignation in view of the accusations would be in line with the Duterte administration’s anti-corruption thrust.
“If DoT Secretary Wanda (Tulfo) Teo resigned because the DoT/PTV 4 favored her Tulfo brothers’ TV production company to the tune of P60 Million worth of government contracts then Solicitor General Jose Calida, the lawyer of the government, should resign as well,” Mr. Pangilinan said in a Facebook post.
“I challenge President Duterte to prove his anti-corruption rhetoric. I challenge him to not only fire Mr. Calida but also to file the necessary charges against him,” Ms. Baraquel said in a statement.
Malacañang, meanwhile, defended the appointed principal legal defender of the government, saying there was no conflict of interest in the awarded government contracts.
“If it’s not in his office, then I don’t see the conflict of interest; but I could be wrong. I’m sure this matter will be pronounced upon by our courts,” Presidential Spokesperson Harry L. Roque, Jr. said in a press briefing at the Palace.
“My reading of the Constitution and the Anti-Graft Law supports the conclusion made by the SolGen that there is no conflict of interest. He resigned all his corporate posts before he become SolGen and I don’t think mere ownership of stocks certificates is prohibited by the Constitution,” he added.
Mr. Roque also pointed out that Mr. Calida did not violate Republic Act No. 6713 or the Code of Conduct and Ethical Standards for Public Officials and Employees since the government contracts in question did not require the approval of Mr. Calida’s office.
“You have to be part of management to be guilty of violating Section 13 and this is also mirrored in RA 6713. The prohibition is to directly or indirectly have any financial or material interest in any transaction requiring the approval of their office,” he said.
“As long as he did not secure contracts with the Office of the Solicitor General. Even if he enters into contract with the DoJ (Department of Justice), the DoJ is not under him,” he added.
Responding to the controversy, Mr. Calida’s office issued a statement late Friday dismissing the allegations against the solicitor general as “totally baseless and concocted.”
According to the statement, “there is no conflict of interest on the part of Solicitor General Jose C. Calida in the matter of the contracts between Vigilant Investigative and Security Agency, Inc. and its client agencies.”
“The Office of the Solicitor General, as a government agency, is not involved in the approval of the contracts between Vigilant and its clients,” the statement read.
On Mr. Calida’s 60% stake at Vigilant which was pointed out by the company’s General Information Sheet (GIS), it said “he has not divested his interest in said enterprise is of no moment since the requirement of the law is either to resign from the management of the enterprise and/or divest himself of his interest in it.”
“The allegation that there is conflict of interest is baseless,” the statement read further.
The statement also reinforced Mr. Roque’s claims made earlier, saying, “these attacks are because he won at his quo warranto petition and his enemies are getting back at him.”
Mr. Calida was the author of the quo warranto petition that the SC granted on a landmark ruling made on May 11, which voided the top magistrate’s appointment for not filing her SALNs as a requirement for the post.
Senate leaders who were visited by the top government lawyer Monday, May 28, said Mr. Calida only discussed with them the bill on the charter of the Office of the Solicitor General (OSG).
“He was following up the bill updating the OSG law,” Senate President Vicente C. Sotto III told reporters.
Senate Majority Leader Juan Miguel F. Zubiri also told the media: “Nothing secretive. We discussed only the issue of the Solgen bill. He asked me what the timelines were… He never mentioned anything about the quo warranto.”
The quo warranto petition was filed by the OSG.
When asked about the meeting on the Senate resolution, Mr. Zubiri, who also chairs the committee on rules, said the members agreed to present the Senate resolution to the plenary for debates.
“We agreed to calendar the resolution for plenary debates,” he said. — Camille A. Aguinaldo with a report from Arjay L. Balinbin