TRAVEL PERKS FOR SOLONS' COOPERATION  

Manila, Feb. 25, 2003 -- The US-funded lobby group Accelerating Growth, Investment and Liberalization with Equity (Agile) gave members of the House and Senate all-expense paid trips to win their cooperation, a House source said yesterday.

The source said most of the lawmakers were either committee chairmen or principal authors of bills in which Agile was interested.

The same "gifts" were also given to officials of government agencies hosting Agile offices.

A ranking congressman who was behind the approval at the committee level of the Special Purpose Vehicle Act and the "improved" Anti-Money laundering Act has been "in and out" of the US since last year.

The source said another senior congressman who is the prime mover of a bill seeking to transform the Bureau of Internal Revenue into the National Authority for Revenue Administration (NARA) is also a "frequent flyer" to the US, courtesy of Agile.

Lakas Rep. Prospero Nograles (Davao City) said these reports should be looked into. "If this is so, this is illegal and at least improper," Nograles said.

He said the freebies were obviously an attempt by Agile to sway members of Congress in approving bills that were crafted, in whole or in part, by the US-funded group.

Agile, a $41 million project of United States Agency for International Development, is said to be well-entrenched in key government agencies, monitoring and influencing economic and financial polices.

Rep. Aniceto Saludo (Southern Leyte) last week said the railroading of the NARA bill was part of the Agile agenda to privatize the BIR.

He also said the House leadership has agreed to recall the NARA bill and sent to the committee on reorganization headed by Rep. Vicente Sumulong.

Saludo said the committee on appropriations headed by Rep. Julio Ledesma, which has endorsed the bill, was not the proper panel to handle the bill whose essence is reorganization and not taxes. (By DENNIS GADIL, Malaya)


Reported by: Sol Jose Vanzi

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