WASHINGTON, D.C. -- The 120th Independence Day celebration of the Philippine Embassy in the United States held at the Trump International Hotel has caught the attention of US Senator Robert "Bob" Menendez.
Menendez wrote a letter to Ambassador Jose Manuel "Babe" Romualdez on June 14 to request information for its transaction with the Trump Organization.
"As you know, President Trump has refused to completely divest from his business interests or place them in a blind trust, which creates the potential for conflicts of interest that may lead him to put his own financial interests above those of the U.S. government and the American people," he said.
“Our founding fathers had this concern in mind when they wrote Article I, Section 9, Clause 8 of the United States Constitution, which prohibits federal officeholders from accepting emoluments from foreign states without first obtaining the affirmative consent of Congress.”
Menendez also sent letters to the embassies of Azerbaijan, Bahrain, Kuwait, and Malaysia to request similar information for its transactions with the same organization.
The senator requested that the embassies provide information regarding their process for selecting venues for official events and programs in Washington, D.C.
Menendez is asking if there are other venues considered or bids submitted and if anyone from the US government had a part in selecting the venue.
Detailed billing information, such as breakdown of costs for food, beverages, and service, was also requested by the senator.
In an earlier report, Romualdez said it was an honor to have his first Independence Day celebration at the famed hotel.
"Having it in a hotel that happens to have his name (Trump) is not necessarily the end-all, be-all. It’s a statement that we have a good relationship with this President," he said.
Romualdez was appointed as ambassador by President Rodrigo Duterte on July 2017.
While some 300 attendees enjoyed the program in the largest luxury ballroom in Washington, D.C., it also attracted several Filipino demonstrators.
"It’s a very extravagant celebration, to try to curry favor with President Trump," Malaya Movement’s Eric Lachica said.
They held a picket to bring attention to the situation in the Philippines.
Lachica also said that Washington, D.C. and the State of Maryland have sued Trump for allegedly violating anti-corruption clauses of the US Constitution that prohibits the president from making money off his presidency.
Romualdez, however, defended criticisms, insisting that the event was not extravagant.
"Extravagance is a matter of interpretation. For us this is not extravagant," he said. "First of all, the Philippine government is not spending for this affair. This is donated by my friends, my personal friends." -- report from Don Tagala, ABS-CBN News