Lobby Reform

Lobbying is the act of attempting to influence decisions made by officials in the government, most often legislators or members of regulatory agencies. It involves the advocacy of an interest that is affected, actually or potentially, by the decisions of government leaders.

RA 1827 is a 1957 law regulating lobbying in the Congress of the Philippines and in the Commission on Appointments. The purpose of the Act was to prohibit corrupt or undesirable methods of lobbying, to promote a high standard of ethics in the practice of lobbying, to prevent harassing unfair and unethical lobbying practices, and to provide for the licensing of lobbyists and the suspension or revocation of such licenses.

Lobbying is the act of attempting to influence decisions made by officials in the government, most often legislators or members of regulatory agencies. It involves the advocacy of an interest that is affected, actually or potentially, by the decisions of government leaders. Individuals and interest groups alike can lobby governments, and governments can even lobby each other. 

The Philippines has adopted the U.S. model in this regard:

“The practice of lobbying is considered so essential to the proper functioning of the U.S. government that it is specifically protected by the First Amendment to the U.S. Constitution: "Congress shall make no law … abridging … the right of the people peaceably … to petition the Government for a redress of grievances."

The practice of lobbying provides a forum for the resolution of conflicts among often diverse and competing points of view; provides information, analysis, and opinion to legislators and government leaders to allow for informed and balanced decision making; and creates a system of checks and balances that allows for competition among interest groups, keeping any one group from attaining a permanent position of power. 

This said, lobbyists can help the legislative process work more effectively by providing lawmakers with reliable data and accurate assessments of a bill's effect.

Lobby Reform Measures

Two legislative measures moved in the mill when the Second Regular Session of the 15th Congress opened last July 25, 2011. The two measures, referred to the Committee on People’s Participation chaired by Rep. Benjamin Asilo (1st Dist., Manila) were House Bill No. (HN) 1199 authored by Rep. Marcelino R. Teodoro (1st Dist, Marikina) and House Resolution No. (HR) 975 introduced by Raymond V. Palatino (PL-Kabataan), Rep. Neri Colmenares (PL-Bayan Muna), Rep. Emmi de Jesus (PL-Gabriela) and Rep. Rafael V. Mariano (PL-Anakpawis).

HN 1199, otherwise known as the Lobbying Accountability Act of 2010 provides for disclosure of lobbying activities. Article 2, Section 28 of the Philippine Constitution was made the basis of HN 1199. Reference should also be made to Article 2 Section 4, which states:

“Section 4. No law shall be passed abridging the freedom of speech, of expression, or of the press, or the right of the people peaceably to assemble and petition the government for redress of grievances.”

This provision as well as Section 28 should be viewed together in relation to regulations on lobbying. Direct lobbying is working through the institution of Congress and can be mere monitoring of legislation or active pushing and shepherding measures while indirect lobbying is a building a constituency (grassroots or Astroturf) behind an issue.

On the other hand, HR 975 is a resolution directing the Committee on People’s Participation to conduct an inquiry, in aid of legislation, on the status of implementation of Republic Act No. (RA) 1827, otherwise known as “An Act to Regulate Lobbying in the Congress of the Philippines and in the Commission on Appointments.” 

RA 1827 is a 1957 law regulating lobbying in the Congress of the Philippines and in the Commission on Appointments. The purpose of the Act was to prohibit corrupt or undesirable methods of lobbying, to promote a high standard of ethics in the practice of lobbying, to prevent harassing unfair and unethical lobbying practices, and to provide for the licensing of lobbyists and the suspension or revocation of such licenses. 

Section 4 of RA 1827 defines lobbying as “the practice of promoting or opposing the introduction or passage of legislation before either House of the Congress of the Philippines or any of its committees, or promoting or opposing the confirmation of any pending appointment before the Commission on Appointments or any of its committees.” Lobbyist, on the other hand, was defined as “any person who engages in the practice of lobbying for hire except in the manner authorized by Section 12 of this Act. Lobbying for hire shall include activities of any officers, agents, attorneys or employees of any principal who are paid a regular salary or retainer by such principal and whose duties include lobbying.”

Section 12 of RA 1827 provides for the exceptions to prohibitions on personal lobbying. The law states that it shall be unlawful for any person other than a licensed lobbyist to attempt personally and directly to influence any member of Congress to vote for or against any measure pending therein, or to be proposed, or to vote for or against confirmation of any appointment pending before the Commission on Appointments, otherwise than by appearing before the regular committees thereof, when in session, or by newspaper publications, or by public addresses to persons other than members of Congress or Commission on Appointments, as the case may be, or by written or printed statements, arguments or briefs delivered to each member of Congress or Commission on Appointments, as the case may be; provided, that within five days after delivering such statement, argument or brief, three copies thereof shall be deposited with the Secretaries of both Houses or with the Secretary of the Commission of Appointments, as the case may be. No officer, agent, appointee, or employee, in the service of the government, shall attempt to influence any member of Congress to vote for or against any measure pending therein, affecting the pecuniary interests of such person, excepting in the manner authorized herein in the case of lobbyists. Nothing in this section shall be construed to deprive any citizen not lobbying for hire of his constitutional right to communicate with members of Congress. 

Any person who limits his lobbying solely to appearance before either House of Congress or Commission on Appointments or its committees and registers his appearance on the records of such House or Commission or committee in writing, shall not be required to be licensed as a lobbyist, pay a license fee, register with the Secretaries of both Houses or with the Secretary of the Commission on Appointments, as the case may be, or make any reports of expenditures. 

The 1957 law also required the registration of lobbyist and the maintenance of a registry by the Secretariats of both chambers of Congress and the Commission on Appointments.

Expert Says

There are professions that conduct direct lobbying: law offices, PR agencies, lobby firms (or public affairs or stakeholders for some) trade associations, consulting groups and people’s organizations. Though the latter is still debatable. Business chambers, people’s organization, PR agencies, consulting groups and lobby firms, usually do indirect lobbying. 

Our experience for the last eight years show that the aforementioned professions have not registered. A check with the Registry under R.A. No. 1827 shows a very limited list, yet the law has been in our statute books since the 1950s. 

Why is this the case? Interest groups do not register because of the following reasons:

  • they do not know there is a 1950’s law regulating lobbying; 
  • Congress and regulatory bodies do not require nor do they issue identification cards; 
  • big law offices get away with it so why would small firms and people’s organization register; 
  • the requirements to register under RA 1827 are ludicrous; and 
  • the Secretariat of the Senate merely receives the action of the HOR but does not act on it because according to them there is R.A. 1827 but has no IRR.

HN 1199 is a step in the right direction because instead of R.A.1827, it adopts the principle of disclosure and makes registration a lot easier. It is simple and provides a clear demarcation on “lobbying activity.” The operative term that regulates the profession is the activity itself.

The process of registration is not cumbersome and straightforward. Imagine submitting one’s birth certificate, barangay clearance, police clearance and NBI clearance, among others to register. That is what we had to undergo when we filed before the HOR.

It is a step towards the right direction because now we would be able to identify who is actually doing lobby work in Congress and regulatory agencies. More importantly, it prevents regulatory capture and conflict-of-interests. 

However, an issue that the measure has to address is that of ex-legislators or former cabinet secretaries, officials in the Executive Branch or local governments who, having completed their terms and because of the revolving door policy may now get into practicing law or doing lobby work? HN 1199 is quite silent on this issue. If the intent is to level the playing field, then shouldn’t they need to register and disclose or will putting a year’s ban cure the potential advantage?

On “lobbying defined,” we recommend the activity of shepherding legislation be included in the definition.

We further recommend the following:

  • upon registration a Lobbyist Identification Card be issued to the applicant good for a term of 3 years, renewable;
  • a copy of the SEC Registry be provided the Secretariat on a regular basis so they would know who are legitimate lobbying firms or lobbyists; and
  • for the Lobby Registry to appear online in the SEC website.

We support the original intent of the Teodoro measure to make the SEC as the repository of the Registry as well as the processing agency for the registration considering it is a neutral body than the secretariats of both chambers that have been entrusted under RA1827 since 1957, but have not enforced the law effectively to ensure disclosure and registration, made.

Let us first start with disclosure and registration before we go to the much complex environment of lobbying in the United States and European Union.

HR 975 was referred to the Committee on People’s Participation last March 15, 2011 by the Committee on Rules and was heard and considered by the Subcommittee on Politics and Governance chaired by Rep. Cinchona Cruz-Gonzales (PL-CIBAC) on May 18, 2011.


"Parliamentary History"

HR 975 was referred to the Committee on People’s Participation last March 15, 2011 by the Committee on Rules and was heard and considered by the Subcommittee on Politics and Governance chaired by Rep. Cinchona Cruz-Gonzales (PL-CIBAC) on May 18, 2011.

The resolution was filed to determine whether RA 1827 “aids in securing that the people’s interest are considered in the passage of the bills and in the appointment of officials in government.

Its Secretary General Marilyn B. Yap represented the House Secretariat while the Senate had its Deputy Secretary General Peter Paul Pineda. The Commission on Appointment (CA) had Atty. Mila Luna Ignacio as its representative.

The House Secretary General presented Memorandum Order No. 03-87 s. 1987 or the “Guidelines of and Procedure in the Processing of Application to Lobby Pursuant to RA. 1827. The representative of the CA revealed that there have been no specific guidelines on lobbying similar to the HOR and that the “rules of the CA and the Standing Committees cover nominees/appointees to government positions.

The major findings, as contained in Committee Report No. 1193 dated 7 June 2011, were: a) Both Houses of Congress and the CA confirm that RA 1827 is outdated and b) Based on the records of the House, there have been two (2) memorandum orders on lobbying released in 1987 and that there have been less than ten (10) applications filed from 1989 to the present.

On 03 August 2011, the Committee on People’s Participation approved the substitute bill to HN 1199.

The substitute bill defines lobbying activity as “the practice of influencing the introduction or passage of legislation before either House of the Congress of the Philippines, as well as intervening with the transaction of public officials and the implementation of government programs and projects.” Lobbyist 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.”

The coverage of lobbying activities includes “any action of communication intended to influence “a) crafting of any legislative proposal by the government or by a member of wither House of Congress; b) the introduction and passage of any legislative proposal or amendment thereto in either House of Congress; c) the drafting of implementing rules and regulations a pursuant to existing law; d) the introduction of or change in any government policy or program; e) the exercise of any authority or power conferred by law; or f) the expenditure of public money.”

Photo by Robert Viñas (Presidential Communications Operations Office, Office of the President)