The Office of the Solicitor General (OSG) is currently being questioned and investigated by the Commission on Audit after the latter found out that during the leadership of President Benigno “Noynoy” Aquino III, they paid over P767.72 million in attorney’s fees to foreign law firms whom aided and represented the Philippines in international cases.
According to COA, they were not informed during the time that any foreign lawyers will be representing the Philippines, so much more that they would be commissioned by the OSG.
“The engagement of private lawyers and law firms for legal services and professional fees was unauthorized due to the absence of prior acquiescence of the OSG and written concurrence of COA pursuant to COA Circular No. 95-011, as amended by COA Circular No. 980002 dated June 9, 1998,” stated in COA’s annual audit report of the OSG.
The COA found out that during the issue of the Philippine’s conflict with China over the West Philippine Sea, the OSG hired two foreign private law firms. In addition to that, they were hired to handle two cases filed against the Philippine government in the International Centre for Settlement of Investment Disputes (ICSID).
According to the findings of COA, the Aquino administration paid P149,060,125.61 in attorney fees to Foley Hoag LLP from 2013 to 2017 for their service in the West Philippine Sea case filed before the International Arbitral Tribunal.
Aside from this, Paul Hastings, Janofsky were also hired to handle the legal dispute the government had with the Metro Rail Transit Corporation. Soon after, the services of Gibson, Dunn, and Crutcher (GDC) LLP were also taken. The total cost of those transactions was P200, 809, 586.84.
This, however, is not the biggest expense. The biggest expense, amounting to P427, 853, 362.24 was paid to White and Case LLP for their services in the international arbitration case filed by the BaggerwerkenDeCloedt En Zoon N.V. against the country. The issue was that the Philippines was ordered to pay at least $16 million for the refusal of Aquino to honor a Laguna Lake dredging contract former President Gloria Macapagal Arroyo had with the Belgian
On top of this, OSG also failed to submit the contracts related to the services and deals it went through. This includes the selection and termination records as well.
OSG has responded to the issue saying that they have “exclusive authority” in engaging the services of these foreign entities, bringing up COA Circular No. 95-011, that says that a written conformity and acquiescence of the OSG in hiring private lawyers is not mandatory.