MANILA - Malacañang on Thursday said there were no politics involved in the plan to abolish an agency tasked with recovering billions of dollars plundered by the late dictator Ferdinand Marcos.
Presidential Spokesperson Ernesto Abella said the proposal to abolish the Presidential Commission on Good Government (PCGG) was in line with government’s streamlining efforts.
“It’s a question of streamlining. There’s no question of politics there,” Abella said in a news conference.
Abella explained, the proposal came from Solicitor General Jose Calida, who wanted more powers for his office.
Calida earlier this year said he would like the functions of the PCGG and the Office of the Government Corporate Counsel (OGCC) be transferred to the OSG.
“At present, it is actually the OSG that handles the cases filed to run after the Marcos ill-gotten wealth, while the PCGG actually handles administrative functions,” Abella said.
“There was a proposal that the OSG can also handle the administrative functions as well… Based on the OSG’s position, apparently they can.”
The issue on the proposal to abolish the PCGG again surfaced after Budget Secretary Benjamin Diokno questioned if the PCGG was still performing its functions
“They don’t do anything. What do they do?” Diokono said on Wednesday.
The PCGG, in response, said it was “surprised” by the questions regarding its performance.
“Aside from the fact that it was awarded as the best DOJ (Department of Justice) performing agency for three years, what other government agency can effectively raise non-tax revenues?” the PCGG said in a statement.
“Why is there a question on its budget and relevance when PCGG's cost-to-recovery ratio is exemplary as shown by [the] numbers? Of all agencies? Figures do not lie.”
The PCGG was set up three decades ago, just after a generally peaceful "People Power" revolt toppled Marcos, to recover the estimated $10 billion allegedly looted by the dictator and his allies during his 20 years in power.
The agency has since recovered 170 billion pesos or about $3.4 billion in ill-gotten wealth as well as jewelry, art and other assets.
But it is still working to find millions more, including 200 pieces of art by masters like Michelangelo and Picasso, alleged to have been purchased by the Marcos family.
The Duterte officials’ announcement was the latest development in the political rehabilitation of the Marcos clan, which has accelerated since family ally Duterte became president last year.
Jean Enriquez, spokeswoman of iDEFEND, a human rights coalition, expressed shock over the announcement, saying "this is really a huge blow to human rights groups especially those who have been against the Marcos dictatorship."
"This administration seeks to absolve the Marcoses from their responsibility to the Filipino people," she said, recalling the strong ties between Duterte and the Marcos family.
Despite the death of the dictator in exile in Hawaii in 1989, his family has been making a political comeback in the Philippines with his widow, Imelda, and their children getting elected to office.
Duterte has openly supported the Marcos family, cheering on the Marcos son, Bongbong, in his failed bid for the vice-presidency last year. - with AFP