Sunday, September 18, 2005

Lobby Probe

Santiago seeks Senate probe on US lobby deal

Veronica Uy

SENATOR Miriam Defensor-Santiago has asked for a Senate inquiry into National Security Adviser Norberto Gonzales' signing up of US law firm Venable LLP for lobbying in the US Congress.

In a still unnumbered resolution, Santiago pointed out that aside from Gonzales, the National Security Council also includes the Senate committee heads on foreign relations, national defense and security, and public order and illegal drugs.

As Senate committee head on foreign relations, Santiago said she was "never informed of any meeting" on the 12-month lobby contract with American law firm Venable LLP, which would cost government 75,000 dollars per month.

Santiago said Senate should reexamine the power of the NSC and its adviser and determine the legal liability, if any, of Gonzalez for acting beyond his authority.

She said it should identify the private patrons of the contract, how much has already been paid to Venable, and where the money came from.

Santiago said Senate should also look into how the contract violates Philippine sovereignty.

Gonzales said Thursday government's deal with Venable LPP was largely for "defense matters" but admitted that lobbying in the US Congress for Charter change was part of the deal.

President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo on Sunday ordered the contract cancelled.

Philippine President Gloria Macapagal Arroyo promotes a car-less day sticker for motorists as she campaigns for energy conservation among the public and government officials in Manila on Saturday
"But such cancellation does not mitigate legal liability because the Anti-Graft and Corrupt Practices Act punishes the mere act of 'entering, on behalf of the Government, into any contract manifestly and grossly disadvantageous to the same,'" said Santiago.

Dan, Tom Honored

Former network news anchors Dan Rather, left, and Tom Brokaw pose backstage after a tribute to them at the 57th Annual Primetime Emmy Awards.