Press Release
October 5, 2020

Sen. Francis "Tol" Tolentino interpellation to Office of the Solicitor General (OSG)

SFNT: Wala po ako masyadong tanong. I would like to commend my schoolmate, Sec. Meynard Guevarra for doing good job leading the DOJ family. May dalawang tanong lang po ako sa NBI, if NBI is present?

- Yes they're here.

Dir. Distor, I join Sen. Lapid in pushing for additional budget for NBI. Kakampi mo ko doon. But my attention was struck by this COA report regarding your property and plant equipment account which according to COA cannot be relied upon due to unreconciled differences between your physical inventory, etc. Have you addressed this?

- (Dir. Distor) Sir on the inventory sir we are conducting reconciliation of the equipments and other office supplies.

SO may ginagawa naman kayo dyan? Kasi ang daming tumutulong sa inyo. Even the City of Tagaytay, nagpatayo kami ng building sa inyo, brand new building, complete equipment pero mukhang ayaw niyo namang gamitin.

- Sir the NBI would like to express its gratitude. I was informed sir that NBI just received the formal donation sir to NBI consisting more or less 500 sqm. lot with a 3-storey building sir. The documents now are being processed by our legal divisions for our formal acceptance. Within this week sir, order of the transfer will be deliberated to our staff and then we will submit our formal report to your office sir.

Yes. Siguro do it fast. You cannot find an LGU willing to donate a prime piece of property and building structure for you. So sana madaliin niyo 'yan director. And that should be part of your COA report next year. Itong PPE niyo. Thank you Mr. Chair. I'll now go to the Office of Solicitor General. Is the Solicitor General around?

- (Sen. Angara) We received a letter from the office of Sol Gen. Calida that his physician advised him for a 5-day rest that's why he is not here. He assigned his Asisstant Angeles to represent him.

So the Assistant Solicitor General probably is authorized to answer questions. Kung hindi naman niya alam ay sabihin niya kasi nakakapagtaka kahit 'yong Supreme Court hindi umaattend si Chief Justice. So for the Office of the Solicitor General, some direct questions. Apparently and it appears not just from your statements, anecdotal reports, that the Solicitor General is the highest paid government official in our bureaucracy, is that correct?

- I think the SolGen is included in the top 10 last year in the highest paid government employees.

Not top 10, top 2. - I can't recall exactly Mr. Chair.

Yes, and it came from some COA reports, the former Solicitor General specifically former Justice Francis H. Jardeleza, hindi nga nangalahati doon sa tinatanggap ni Solicitor General Calida. Bakit kaya nangyari ito? Ano 'yong napadagdag? Nag-increase 'yong budget? Or there are allowances that are being distributed by the Office of the Solicitors General pursuant to your mandate, e baka sa kan'ya lang napupunta?

- I don't have exact figures of what SolGen receives specifically.

Tama 'yong sagot mo Atty. Angeles but this is the peculiarity of this. There is an Executive Order 292. This is the Revised Administrative Code of 1987, allowing the distribution of honoraria and other allowances to the SolGen. But apparently, there is a COA circular, I can place this on the record, 85-25E which states that allowances should not exceed 50% of the annual salary and apparently there is a disconnect here. COA has been asking you not to raise that more than 50% and apparently the Solicitor General has defied the COA memorandum circular. Can you explain that, Atty. Angeles? Remember Mr. Angeles that COA is a constitutional office ha? Go ahead.

- This COA findings started way back years before the administration and of SolGen Calida.

So pending resolution by COA, you're still pursuing that questionable practice, is that correct? Because it might intend some reimbursements if COA finds otherwise.

- Yes correct Mr. Chairman.

I look at this Mr. Chair as an arbitrary distribution of funds by the Solicitor General but I don't question the distribution to our lawyers who should be receiving that likewise kaya lang 'yong pagpili. Sino 'yong tatanggap, gano'n kalaki? It largely remain within the discretion of the Solicitor General. Tama ba 'yon, Atty. Angeles kayo lang raw ang pumipili 'yong daw mga passports na paborito, 'yon lang ang bibigyan?

- Under the law, SolGen can choose which lawyers can be assigned to specific task.

I hope that can be done in a transparent manner because some of your OSG lawyers have complained. I won't be mentioning the names but pinipili lang daw 'yong nakakatanggap. Siguro hindi na yun yung topic na ipu-pursue ko kasi wala diyan si Solicitor General, siya po 'yong makakasagot niyan. Ito pong ginagawa niyo 'yong pag-visitation niyo sa mga level ng preliminary investigation, is this pursuant to the charter of OSG? Kasi ang alam ko the participation of OSG is limited to representing the government on the appellate level. Hindi naman sa simula pa lang.

- That's correct po Mr. Chair.

Is there a basis for this?

- I agree.

So if there is no basis of it, there should be no basis likewise for the expenditures, emanating from government funds because the government now is spending for your preliminary investigations, fact-finding activities which is outside the mandate of the Office of the Solicitor General and which should not be funded at all by the government because it is outside your mandate. Am I correct, Atty. Angeles?

- I am not aware of the fact-finding activities.

Can you submit a report in this committee relative to the existence of such fact-finding bodies which are against the mandate of the OSG? Padalhan mo lang kami dito sa committee, with the permission of the honourable chair. Another question Mr. Chairman, is the big jump in the 2021 budget proposal for travel expenses. Are you familiar with this, Atty. Angeles?

- (Atty. Angeles confirmed the increase.)

How much is the increase?

- 5%

No. I'm referring to the travel funds. Because apparently, you have an allocation of 21.499 million and 87.75% is for foreign travels. E kasagsagan pa po next year ng COVID-19, saan naman po tayo magfo-foreign travel? E kahit ngayong 2020, e hindi niyo siguro nagamit 'yong foreign travel fund. Ngayon Malaki pa 'yong hinihingi niyo. Hindi ko alam kung saan kayo magtatravel. Hindi naman siguro sa Boracay.

- Each travel po, we are also requesting for a realignment of the allocation.

Have you submitted that request to the line, to this committee? Kung wala pa, bakit natin dinedeliberate itong budget niyo. Iba pala 'yong aaprubahan namin. Iba pala 'yong pinadala niyo, iba rin 'yong intention ninyo. So when are you going to submit your documents Atty. Angeles? Kasi ang dami kong papel dito, papakita ko sa iyo. Iba pala 'tong hinahawakan ko kasi may proposal pa kayong iba. In fairness to my other colleagues, ito rin 'yong hawak nilang papel, iba naman pala 'yong proposals ninyo.

- I've been informed we already sent the request to realign the funds.

So you're referring to the travel fund allocation, Atty. Angeles, and others?

- Opo

Sana napadala niyo, nabigyan niyo kami bago man lang mag-hearing. Nagpuyat pa ko rito kagabi. So my other question with the permission of my other colleagues has something to do with what Sen. Marcos raised a while ago. It has something to do with the confidential funds. I don't know if you're in a position to answer all of these questions. Apparently, your confidential funds jumped from 5 million, to now, it is hovering the base line of 20 million for the next physical year. Sen. Marcos was asking for a detailed version of this and apparently your answer was this was going to be converted into capital outlay, am I correct?

Again, Mr. Chair I think the Commission on Audit flagged again the OSG and the DBM because apparently and it is very clear here that your confidential funds is not pursuant to joint circular 2015-01 of the DBM and I'm referring to the guidelines on the entitlement released used reports in the audit of the confidential funds. And that joint circular specifically states that it should be for national security and peace and order only. Naintindihan mo ba 'yon, Atty. Angeles? And now you are referring to APEX?

- Yes po Mr. Chairman.

I understand last time we had a closed door meeting with the executive council relative to the utilization of similarly situated funds. And I'm not sure if the office of the Solicitor's General was part of that executive session. Kasama po ba kayo do'n Atty. Angeles?

- I can't recall po Mr. Chair.

So kung hindi mo na-recall malamang hindi kayo kasali. Kasi pinag-usapan do'n 'yong tungkol sa National Security, Peace and Order and that entire template which is being headed by Sec. Esperon. If you're not part of that structure, I don't see any program on how National Security and Peace and Order would fit in a Office of Solicitor General budget. So dito siguro nagkakaroon tayo ng disconnect. Now you're claiming it will now be utilised for capital expenditures and that probably would be your agency's indigenous answer to this persisting COA and DBM problem. Mas maganda po siguro Mr. Chair for the last three years, kung ma-submit ng Office of the Solicitor General. How this National Security, very confidential and Peace and Order template was utilised by the Office of the Solicitor General? Kung maibibigay po sa komite today, next week, ng Office of the Solicitor General as well as the proposed utilization of the travel funds. Hindi po kaya sagutin ni Atty. Angeles, Mr. Chair, I move for the deferral of the OSG budget hearing today until such time that they can submit the documents that would buttress their claim that this would be utilised for the appropriate purpose, Mr. Chairman.

- (Sen. Angara) Any objection to the motion from the body?

- (Sen. Pimentel) Can Sen. Tolentino restate the reason po?

We need to be apprised by the concerned agency and due to the absence of the head of the agency in this committee budget hearing, we need to be apprised how this confidential funds allocation was utilized during the previous years and for this coming physical year because the representative is claiming a different reason that it will be converted into a capital outlay and the travel funds again will be converted into capital outlay. It appears Mr. Chairman and with the indulgence of Sen. Pimentel, we are dealing with a different budgetary proposal because time and again, the representative of the Office of the Solicitor General is claiming that a different set of the budgetary proposals will be sent to the plenary. That's my impression because what we have here in front of us is a different budgetary proposal because they still have to amend their budgetary proposal, Mr. Chair. Hindi po concrete 'yong sinubmit nila dito. Can you concretize this Atty. Angeles? When?

- We have submitted po August 27th po.

But I understand Mr. Angeles, with the permission of the Chairman, on a confidential matter relative to national security, please apprise this committee on a very confidential manner, how the Office of the Solicitor General participates in national security and peace and order concern. When you admitted a while ago that your mandate is dedicated to appellate participation in government cases. When you admitted a while ago that your mandate is dedicated to appellate participation in government cases. Bakit tayo napunta ngayon sa national security. So 'yon lang po Mr. Chair. Ipadala lang nila 'yon, maliwanagan lang. Addressed to the committee members, highly confidential.We don't want to have another executive session concerning this. Para maliwanag po ito, Mr. Chair.

- (Sen. Pimentel) 2 reasons are not congruent to the budget being explained by Atty. Angeles.

Mr. Chair, I join Sen. Pimentel in his proposal because these are the very same questions I asked last year. I asked the LRA last year relative to their encoding processes, their honor verification system, etc. and these are the same questions now being asked by Sen. Pimentel. So apparently, this has not been addressed. So I concur with Sen. Pimentel. I join the distinguished gentleman from Cagayan de Oro in seeking a deferral of the budget of the LRA. Thank you Mr. Chair.

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