THE Senate yesterday approved on third and final reading a bill that will bolster the Office of the Solicitor General (OSG).
The OSG can hire more lawyers once the bill is signed into law. This is seen as a major boost to the office as the government’s principal law office and legal defender.
Senate Bill No. 1823 sponsored by Senator Richard Gordon, chairman of the Senate Committee on Justice and Human Rights, will primarily amend Executive Order No. 292 or the Administrative Code and Republic Act No. 9417, to introduce provisions that directly address the most important challenges faced by the OSG such as the hiring of new lawyers, skills training and specialization, and modernization of equipment, among others.
Gordon explained the bill expands the powers of the OSG to “conciliate, mediate, administratively settle, or adjudicate all disputes, claims, and controversies involving mixed questions of fact and law, or questions of fact only, solely between or among the departments, bureaus, offices, agencies, and instrumentalities of the national government, including constitutional offices or agencies.”
To address the problem of too few OSG lawyers who are overloaded with cases, the bill mandates “competitive” retirement perks and other benefits for OSG members to help recruit new lawyers and make them stay in the agency.
Among the new perks to attract more lawyers to the OSG are retirement benefits equivalent to those received by the National Prosecution Service, lump sum gratuities, and death benefits for senior officials of the OSG (the Solicitor General, Assistant Solicitors General, and State Solicitors), “provided that they will not represent interests adverse to those of the public.”
The bill likewise calls for the institutionalization of intensive training of OSG personnel -- which includes the provision of a legal internship program for law students -- to develop capacity and “ensure those who are trained cascade what they learn and stay in the OSG.”
“More and better-trained OSG lawyers mean lower caseload for each lawyer. A lighter caseload would mean lesser postponement of hearings, and pleadings would be filed on time.
“Ultimately, this would help in the faster disposition of cases,” Gordon said.