House scraps agency charged with finding ill-gotten Marcos wealth

Left, some of the finery amassed by the Marcos family during their years of power and, right, the Philippine House of Representatives in session

The House of Representatives has approved a bill to abolish the agency tasked with recovering the ill-gotten wealth of the Marcos family.

The decision today (Tuesday, May 15) transfers the responsibility of tracking down billions of pesos plundered during the dictatorship years to the Office of the Solicitor General (OSG).

The House voted 162-10, without abstentions, approve House Bill (HB) No. 7376, which seeks to strengthen the OSG by increasing its powers and functions.

One of the bill’s key provisions was to scrap the Presidential Commission on Good Government (PCGG) and the Office of the Government Corporate Counsel (OGCC).

The current Solicitor General, Jose Calida, supported the bill, which was first proposed by Speaker Pantaleon Alvarez,  a close Duterte ally. Calida argued that the bill would “result in a leaner, cleaner government bureaucracy which is better able to address the people’s urgent needs”.

As we previously reported, it was Calida who defended before the Supreme Court the president’s decision to give a hero’s burial to the late dictator in 2016. 

The 21 years of rule by Ferdinand Marcos were marred by disappearances, torture, extrajudicial killings, media oppression and corruption. 

Transparency International estimates that Marcos embezzled up to $10 billion from 1972 to 1986 through shell corporations, real estate and offshore bank holdings. 

Over the last three decades, the PCGG has recovered at least 170 billion pesos — spending just 2.9 billion pesos throughout that time.

However, the PCGG has drawn criticism for slow progress and alleged corruption for long before President Duterte took office. 

Nonetheless, today’s near-unanimous decision has drawn criticism from some lawmakers.

Congressman Antonio Tinio said: “It’s clear that this bill, particularly the abolition of the PCGG, is part of the Duterte administration’s rehabilitation of the Marcos family – from allowing the burial of the dictator Marcos at the Libingan ng mga Bayani [national heroes’ cemetery] to his support for the vice presidency of the defeated candidate Bongbong Marcos.”

Also at today’s sitting, the House unanimously approved a bill to abolish the Road Board.

The board oversees the funds from the Motor Vehicle User’s Charge, which are supposed to be used exclusively for road maintenance, installation of road safety devices and air pollution control.

Under the bill, management of funds for road projects will be turned over to the Department of Public Works and Highways, while the Department of Environment and Natural Resources will manage the funds for pollution control.