“The Office of the Solicitor General and its present priorities”Gert A. Gust President Benjamin Santos Immediate Past President Benjamin Diokno Vice-President Eusebio Tan Director-in-Charge, Program Committee Directors Executive Officers Members and Friends Let me first offer my sincerest thanks to the members of the Rotary Club of Manila for inviting me to speak before you today. Benevolence, Unity, Integrity, Leadership, Development, Service Above Self – I am sure that in the many years you have convened in these luncheons, you have been used to hearing these values echoed time and again, as a reminder of the cause this organization stands for. Today, I’ve been given the opportunity to share with you matters relating to the Office of the Solicitor General and its present priorities. It is my hope that as this speech unfolds, you will begin to become familiar with the OSG and understand its natural affinity towards the Rotary Club of Manila. The OSG’s mandate as the law firm of the Republic of the Philippines is primarily to represent the Filipino people and the Philippine Government in any litigation. Thus, the OSG is called “The People’s Tribune”. We appear before the Supreme Court to defend the interests of the state in high-profile cases. As you may all well know too, in the past few days, the case against Major General Garcia has put the OSG in the limelight. We have been called upon by our President to intervene at what is considered an unjust and malicious agreement that ensured the release of a man accused of stealing state funds for his own benefit. The present administration strongly reiterates its position that no man should ever be immune from the law. Whether he’s a former Major General, or a common fisherman, the rule of law must always prevail. We stand by our argument that the plea bargaining agreement between Garcia and the Office of the Special Prosecutor (OSP) should be nullified for being illegal and disadvantageous to the state. First, the consent of the offended party which is the AFP was not obtained when the plea bargaining agreement was approved. Second, the existence of guilt is strong. This is why the Sandiganbayan denied the first Petition for bail of Garcia on January 07, 2010. Finally, the crime of direct bribery to which Garcia pleaded to is not necessarily included in the crime of plunder. We have argued the same before the Sandiganbayan a few weeks ago and we stand by our defense in the firm belief that justice is on our side. This is only one among the many battles our office has to face as the People’s Tribune. But apart from the legal obligations of the OSG, our staff continuously strives to find better ways to provide its services to the public. In 2002, a publication entitled “E-government in the Philippines” noted that in other countries, Information and Communication Technology (ICT) is being deployed to make government more effective, efficient, and transparent. ICT is not only helping make better governments but also providing citizens more information on their governments. Leaders in the e-government movement are demonstrating that by combining technology with new ways of operating, government can be much more effective and responsive to citizens.1 In line with the present Administration’s platform of good governance and transparency, we have recently created a Communications and Media Group whose members are tasked to ensure that the public is well informed about the official functions and transactions of the office. We intend to fully adapt improved communication systems that can readily provide information and services to the public over the Internet and other communication networks. The OSG is also continuously working to reduce the backlog of cases. We’re currently seeking ways to speed up the processing of our documents through different technological means such as the Enhanced Case Management Tool (eCMT) which has begun adding more functionality to the original information system of documents. It must be noted too that we extend our resources to provide the public useful information that can contribute to relevant studies that affect the society. As we entered the New Year, a few other things that have kept some of our lawyers busy were the drafting of status reports of cases from previous year. The Office of the Solicitor General (OSG) recently released a report entitled “Statistics on Annulment of Marriage Cases: 2010”. Although not conclusive in its entirety, the report provides a brief discourse on the demographics and factors that were salient among couples who filed for annulment in 2010. Benevolence, Unity, Integrity, Leadership, Development, Service Above Self– these are values we at the Office of the Solicitor General do not take for face value. As they are embedded in the system of the Rotary Club of Manila, we at the OSG certainly strive to personify the same principles to uphold the best interests of the public. I am certainly glad we each own a commitment to hone leaders that will help lift us from the current state we are in. I am grateful for your continued support and hope that together, we may reach greater heights in our pursuit for a just and peaceful community. Once again, thank you and Mabuhay. 1 Lallana, E., Pascual P., Soriano E., (2002) “E-Government in the Philippines: Benchmarking Against Global Best Practices"