House Panel Approves Proposed Lobbying Disclosure Act.

To promote and protect the integrity of public office, the House Committee on People's Participation has endorsed for plenary approval the proposed law providing for the disclosure of lobbying activities in the Philippines.

Committee Chairman Rep. Benjamin Asilo disclosed the approval of HB 5298 as a substitute to HB 1199 originally authored by Rep. Marcelino Teodoro.

"We must enhance public confidence in the integrity of public office by implementing a policy of full public disclosure of lobbying activities and transactions in the country," Teodoro said.

Under HB 5298 or the "Lobbying Disclosure Act", lobbying activity refers to the practice of influencing the introduction, shepherding, or passage of legislation before either House of the Congress of the Philippines, as well as intervening in the official decisions of public officials and the implementation of government programs and projects.

A lobbyist, on the other hand, refers to any person or juridical entity, including a corporation, a partnership, or an association, who engages in the practice of lobbying for a regular salary, a retainer, or other compensation, or a non-monetary benefit.

"Transparency and good governance entail, among others, revealing all information related to lobbying activities and transactions involving government offices," Teodoro pointed out.

Co-authors of the committee-approved bill (under Committee Report 1420) include Chairman Asilo and Reps. Cinchona Gonzales, Cresente C. Paez, Catalina Leonen-Pizarro, Arnel U. Ty, Reena Concepcion Obillo, Raymond Palatino, Christopher S. Co, Winston Castelo and Salvador Cabaluna.

The bill provides for penal provisions, one of which is: "Any person who shall act as lobbyist without a license shall be fined with not less than P30,000.00 nor more than P50,000.00 and shall be prohibited from acting as a lobyyist for a period of three years from the date of conviction."

The proposed statute identifies the coverage of lobbying activities that include the following: 1) any action or communication intended to influence the formulation, introduction, shepherding, or passage of legislation; 2) the drafting of implementing rules and regulations; 3) the formulation of policies, the exercise of public authority; and 4) the expenditure of public money.

"The measure also delineates activities which shall not be considered as lobbying activities and directs lobbyists to register with appropriate government registering agencies provided under the proposed Act," the authors noted.

Likewise, the measure creates a Joint Secretariat for both Houses of Congress and another Secretariat for the Executive Department which shall attend to the registration of lobbyists and the compilation and maintenance of related records.

Furthermore, it requires lobbyists to submit annual reports on their lobbying activities to the Joint Secretariat of both chambers of Congress or the Secretariat for the Executive Department.

The authors also noted the existence of a related law under R.A. 1827, entitled, "An Act to Regulate Lobbying in the Congress of the Philippines and in the Commission on Appointments," enacted on June 22, 1957