Drilon: Road Board 'already dead'
MANILA (2nd UPDATE) - The House of Representatives will heed President Rodrigo Duterte's call to abolish the Road Board, House Majority Leader Rolando Andaya Jr. said Saturday, days after he initially said he was against the agency's termination.
Duterte on Friday said he was siding with the Senate in scrapping the "corrupted" Road Board, a body tasked to ensure that the Motor Vehicle User's Charge (MVUC) collected from vehicle owners will be used exclusively for road-related projects.
"The President has spoken. We heard his message to the House. We will act based on his guidance," Andaya said in a statement.
"If the President wants an abolition of the road board, let it be real abolition. No residues," he said.
Before Duterte's directive, Andaya had been urging his colleagues not to push through with the proposed abolition of the board as several lawmakers had projects lodged in the agency.
With the expected abolition of the Road Board, the P166.18 billion MVUC fund should be made part of the General Appropriations Act, Andaya said.
"This way, the real and full funding level of the DPWH is reflected clearly, unlike today when MVUC spending is segregated and treated as a non-national budget expenditure," he said.
"We also prefer that non-road user activities like garbage collection be stricken off the spending menu," he said.
If Duterte would "send a better bill and certify it as urgent" and the House is convinced of its merits, the chamber "will approve it without delay," he said.
In a statement Saturday morning, Senate Minority Leader Franklin Drilon said the Road Board is "dead" and "inutile" even if the House of Representatives would refuse to sign a measure that would formally abolish it.
Majority of Road Board members are Cabinet secretaries who follow directives from the President, Drilon said.
"No law is needed to abolish the Road Board. It is already dead,” Drilon said.
"That is how the system works: Congress authorizes, the President dispenses. It is an integral part of the check and balance in our system of government," he added.
Both houses of Congress earlier approved a bill that would abolish the Road Board after the Commission on Audit flagged non-compliance in the utilization of some P166.18 billion from the MVUC.
"Even if the courts finally decide that the Road Board cannot be abolished if House Speaker Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo does not sign, or endorse, the bill abolishing the Board, the agency is rendered inutile," Drilon said.
"If the Road Board will not exercise that delegated authority, Congress cannot do anything," he said.
Senate Majority Leader Miguel Zubiri, meanwhile, suggested to reconvene the bicameral conference committee on January 14 to "further strengthen the abolition of the corruption riddled agency."
"As the principal author of the abolition of the road board, my stand is simple. Get all the collections of MVUC and add it to the revenue collection of government," he said.
"Time to reform the use of these funds for the good of our people."
Malacañang said it was "pleased" that Andaya "is finally in touch with reality" after the Bicolano lawmaker alleged that several Cabinet members were "out of touch with the President" on issues concerning the Road Board.
Earlier this week, Andaya also challenged Budget Secretary Benjamin Diokno to debate on the Road Board abolition.
"We are pleased to know that the House of Representatives has listened to the voice of the people who have long been outraged by the corruption surrounding the use of the said tax," Presidential spokesperson Salvador Panelo said in a statement.
"Let the President's call for a clean and responsive government to the needs of the governed be taken to heart by those who temporarily wield political power so that our country could commence to traverse the path (to) righteousness and progress so long denied them by those they have entrusted with authority," he said.