THE SENATE on Monday passed on third and final reading the bill expanding the powers and capabilities of the Office of the Solicitor General (OSG).
Senate Bill No. 1823 was approved with 16 affirmative votes, zero negative, and no abstention.
It seeks to amend Executive Order No. 292 or the Administrative Code, and Republic Act No. 9417, which also strengthened the OSG.
Senator Richard J. Gordon, chair of the Senate committee on justice and human rights and sponsor of the bill, said the proposed measure will address the problems faced by the OSG, which includes the hiring of new lawyers, skills training and specialization, and equipment modernization.
The bill amends EO 292 in defining the Solicitor General as the “law officer and legal defender of government.” Under existing laws, the Solicitor General represents the government in the Supreme Court, Court of Appeals and other court proceedings.
Among the expanded powers and functions of OSG include hiring a foreign counsel who could best represent the interests of the country.
The bill also allows the OSG to own real or personal property. The agency could also provide a legal internship program for law students.
The bill will also increase the share of the OSG in proceeds from litigations so it could fund employees’ training and modernize office and equipment.
To address the problem of OSG layers being overloaded with cases, Mr. Gordon said the measure provides “competitive” retirement, death, and survivorship benefits that could help attract new recruits and make them stay.
It also mandates the OSG to formulate plans and implement programs to develop the skills of the agency’s personnel.
It also directs the agency to allow its lawyers to travel within the country and abroad to attend seminars and conferences on different areas of law, especially on international law, public private partnerships, and public corporate governance.
In return, OSG lawyers who underwent training must serve the agency between one to three years, depending on the government costs.
“The Office of the Solicitor General is in dire need of competent, dedicated, and honest lawyers to perform its mandate of being the People’s Tribune and the legal defender of the Republic of the Philippines,” Mr. Gordon said in a statement. — Camille A. Aguinaldo