Bill limiting authority of OICs in gov’t agencies filed in Senate

Robie de Guzman   •   October 14, 2021   •   118

 

MANILA, Philippines – Senator Francis Tolentino has filed a bill seeking to limit the powers of officials designated as officer-in-charge (OIC) of a government agency.

In filing Senate Bill No. 2434, Tolentino proposed that officials serving as OIC should be barred from entering into long-term agreements or high-value contracts on behalf of the government

The bill seeks to amend the provisions of Executive Order No. 292 or the Administrative Code of 1987 on OICs, which provides that appointments in civil service positions may either be permanent or temporary.

Tolentino said he filed the measure following issues that cropped up in the Senate Blue-Ribbon Committee’s hearing on the 2020 Commission on Audit report on the Department of Health and other issues related to the utilization of the national budget in the fight against COVID-19.

During the hearing, senators questioned the awarding of multi-billion pesos’ worth of contracts to suppliers for the DOH at the start of the COVID-19 pandemic.

Then Department of Budget and Management (DBM) Undersecretary Lloyd Christopher Lao, who was appointed as OIC of DBM’s Procurement Service in January 2020, signed the contracts.

Tolentino said the bill aims to expressly define and limit the powers and functions that an OIC may exercise.

Under the measure, the powers of OICs are confined only to functions of administration and ensuring that the office continues its usual activities.

It also limits the designation of the OIC to not more than six months to prevent temporary appointees from holding the position for a long period of time to ensure efficiency in government operations..

“Since OICs are only designated to ensure that the day-to-day operations of the office will not be hampered, and they lack the authority to exercise discretionary powers, it is incumbent upon the appointing authority to fill the position with permanent appointments as soon as possible,” Tolentino said.

 

Blue Ribbon to release initial report on ‘overpriced’ medical supplies from Pharmally

Maris Federez   •   October 18, 2021

MANILA, Philippines — The Senate Blue Ribbon Committee is set to release the initial report on its investigation into the alleged overpriced medical supplies for COVID-19 procured by the government from Pharmally Pharmaceutical Corporation.

Blue Ribbon chairperson Senator Richard Gordon said they will try to release the said preliminary report within this week.

He said the committee had been very careful in preparing the report from the results of the investigations conducted in the series of hearings. He added that individuals who must take accountability for the said anomaly will be included in the report in accordance with the anti-graft law and the procurement law.

“Ang lalabas ngayon, ano ang naging resulta ng imbestigasyon. Well, mabusisi ito. Malinaw na kung anong ginawa. ‘Yun ang ipapalabas natin. Ito ang ginawa ng mga taong ‘to, ito ang mananagot sa anti-graft, ito ang mananagot sa violation ng procurement law, at sino ba talaga ang nagpaikot niyan,” Gordon said.

The senator said they will hold the twelfth hearing on the said issue on Tuesday, following its cancellation last October 12. —/mbmf (with details from UNTV Correspondent Harlene Delgado)

Lawmaker expresses dismay over House hearing on COVID-19 supplies anomaly

Maris Federez   •   October 14, 2021

MANILA, Philippines — A lawmaker on Thursday expressed his disappointment on how the hearing on the alleged anomalous procurement of COVID-19 supplies from Pharmally Pharmaceutical Corporation has turned out.

House Deputy Speaker and Buhay Partylist Representative Lito Atienza said he is ashamed at the turn of events of the investigation of the House Committee on Good Government and Public Accountability, especially on the matter concerning Pharmally.

“Ako ay miyembro ng Kongreso. Pero tatapatin kita, maraming ginagawa sa Kongreso ikinahihiya ko. Masama lamang na magresign. Lumipat ka na, pero hindi ako natutuwa sa mga nangyayari sa Kongreso. Tama ka. Parang gusto nilang iabswelto ang Pharmally,” Atienza said.

Atienza was referring to how the committee handled the hearing and the stance of the committee chairman that seemed to be defending the pharmaceutical company.

“Malayo na ang imbestigasyon ng Senado. Makikialam kayo sasabihin niyo wala naman palang kasalanan. Sino nagsabi? Kayo? Ano ang pagbabasehan niyo diyan? ‘Yung sinabi ng kalaban, yung sinabi ng akusado na ginagamit niyong pruweba? Anong klaseng imbestigasyon yan?” Atienza required.

Diwa Partylist Representative Michael Aglipay who chairs the panel did not give his comment on Atienza’s allegation.

He, however, gave his assurance during the committee’s October 4 hearing that they will be issuing a fair and truthful committee report on the investigation.

“As chairman, I’m always for the truth, nothing else. If there is evidence to pin down the officials of the government, then we shall strongly recommend charges against them before the appropriate courts and tribunals. We will decide swiftly where the evidence takes us. Rest assured our committee report will be fair and based on evidence,” Aglipay said. —/mbmf (from the report of UNTV Correspondent Nel Maribojoc)

DOJ chief defends Duterte memo barring Cabinet execs from attending Senate panel probe

Robie de Guzman   •   October 6, 2021

MANILA, Philippines – Department of Justice (DOJ) Secretary Menardo Guevarra on Wednesday defended President Rodrigo Duterte’s memorandum prohibiting officials and employees from the Executive Department from attending hearings conducted by the Senate Blue Ribbon Committee on contracts between the government and the Pharmally Pharmaceutical Corporation.

During a hearing by the Senate finance committee on the DOJ’s 2022 proposed budget, Guevarra said the memo does not seek to defy the congressional authority to hold legislative inquiries.

“To me, the objective or the essence of this memo is not to defy your authority or prerogative but to protest the manner the Senate Blue Ribbon Committee hearings has been conducted during the past few weeks,” he said.

He also pointed out that the memo was only confined to a particular probe.

The memorandum order signed by Executive Secretary Salvador Medialdea covers specifically the Senate Blue Ribbon Committee’s legislative inquiries into the Commission on Audit report flagging the alleged deficiencies in COVID-19 pandemic spending.

Guevarra clarified that he was not involved in the drafting of the memo but he believes that the main concern may be the amount of time that Cabinet officials spend in the hearing.

The hearings that have since spanned to Duterte’s appointees and other individuals, have been going on for two months.

Guevarra said that this period should have been enough for lawmakers to see if there is any law that needs to be amended or enacted, or some legal provisions that need to be repealed.

He also said he is willing to speak to Medialdea to discuss the memo but stressed that the Senate panel should also make some adjustments as to the manner and timing of the attendance of officials from the Executive branch..

Some groups, including the Philippine Bar Association, have called on Duterte to reconsider his memo as it upsets the system of checks and balances in the government.

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