He also does not see the need for him to appear at the hearing of Senate committee on civil service led by Sen. Antonio Trillanes IV on Senate Bill No. 1924 that seeks to amend the provision on “conflict of interest” under Republic Act 6713 (Code of Conduct and Ethical Standards for Public Officials and Employees).
Miguel De Guzman
Jose Calida defends family company’s contracts with government
Edu Punay (The Philippine Star) - September 6, 2018 - 12:00am

MANILA, Philippines — Solicitor General Jose Calida has stood firm in claiming the regularity of contracts of his family’s security agency with several government offices.

He also does not see the need for him to appear at the hearing of Senate committee on civil service led by Sen. Antonio Trillanes IV on Senate Bill No. 1924 that seeks to amend the provision on “conflict of interest” under Republic Act 6713 (Code of Conduct and Ethical Standards for Public Officials and Employees).

In a four-page letter, Calida’s lawyer Jose Bernas told the Senate committee which started hearing the proposed law last Tuesday that the solicitor general did not violate any law as the contracts of his family’s Vigilant Investigative and Security Agency Inc. (VISA) were aboveboard and did not violate the rule against conflict of interest.

“We reiterate that based on textual reading of RA 6713, and as confirmed by jurisprudence, the solicitor general is not in conflict of interest,” read the letter sent to the committee also last Tuesday. 

Bernas stressed that the appearance of Calida in the hearings is not necessary, contrary to the pronouncement of the committee in its summons last Aug. 30.

“Our client is not an expert on matters involving conflicts of interest. He does not administer RA 6713 and did not practice in that area of law prior to his appointment as solicitor general,” the lawyer explained.

“It seems to us that the issue sought to be explored by the hearing is whether the solicitor general or his family or other public official should be absolutely prohibited from having an interest in government transaction, directly or indirectly. Under current jurisprudence and law, there is no such prohibition and it would be unfair to carry out the hearings premised upon the existence of such a prohibition,” he added.

Calida’s camp also informed the Senate committee of his petition before the Supreme Court seeking to stop the hearings on the issue involving his family’s security firm since they “lack legislative intent and are, therefore, unconstitutional.”

Bernas said his client did not attend the hearing because “he must take a position consistent with his petition” before the SC, adding that the scheduled hearing coincided with the high court’s oral arguments on the petition challenging the government’s withdrawal from the International Criminal Court. 

For these reasons, Calida asked to be excused from the committee’s hearings.

He advised the committee to consider looking into other government transactions involving government officials, including the controversial Hacienda Luisita stock distribution plan and the  acquisition of assets sequestered by the Presidential Commission on Good Government, in the next hearings.

Still, the solicitor general submitted to the Senate committee his position on the proposed amendment in RA 6713 by adding “undue influence” to the definition “conflict of interest.”

“In his view, the proposed amendment to the definition of ‘conflict of interest’ under RA 6713 is unnecessary. From an academic viewpoint, ‘conflict of interest’ and ‘undue influence’ are two distinct matters and must not be classified as one and the same,” read the letter.

“Exertion of undue influence by a public officer to another officer in government dealings for personal gain is covered by Section 3 (a) of Republic Act No. 3019 of the Anti-Graft and Corrupt Practices Act... Thus, amending the conflict of interest provision under RA 6713 may be, in our client’s opinion, superfluous,” it added.

ANTONIO TRILLANES IV CONFLICT OF INTEREST JOSE CALIDA VIGILANT INVESTIGATIVE AND SECURITY AGENCY INC.
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