PRESIDENT Rodrigo Duterte is bent on abolishing the corruption-plagued Road Board, which triggered the ongoing feud between the House of Representatives and Budget Secretary Benjamin Diokno, Malacañang said on Tuesday, December 18.
Speaking to Palace reporters, Presidential Spokesperson Salvador Panelo said Duterte was merely awaiting the transmittal of a measure from Congress that will abolish the Road Board.
Panelo said Duterte would sign the bill abolishing the Road Board "as soon as it is given to him."
"Yes, that has been the position," Panelo said, when asked if Duterte is slated to sign the proposed measure seeking the abolition of the Road Board, when it reaches the President's table.
"'Yun ang kailangan eh (That's what is needed). We want that the fund be returned to the treasury and then let the Congress appropriate again for specific purpose," the Palace official added.
In September 2017, Duterte wanted the abolition of Road Board, which is created through Republic Act 8794, as it was ridden with corruption.
The Road Board is tasked to ensure prudent and efficient management and use of motor vehicle user's charge (MCUV), also known as the road user's tax.
On December 14, Diokno bared that his rift with House lawmakers over alleged insertions of P75 billion in the proposed 2019 budget had stemmed from his decision not to release the road user's tax.
The House of Representatives approved House Bill (HB) 7436, which seeks the Road Board's abolition, in May under the watch of former House Speaker Pantaleon Alvarez. The Senate, on the other hand, passed its version of the measure, Senate Bill 1620 (SB), in February.
On September 12, the Senate adopted HB 7436 and replaced SB 1620 with the House's measure, thus dispensing with bicameral discussions.
However, the House of Representatives, under the leadership of House Speaker Gloria-Macapagal Arroyo, passed a motion rescinding its own approval of the bill.
The House lawmakers' move led to confusion about the measure's status.
On December 16, Alvarez said some lawmakers have earned and stand to earn huge kickbacks from road projects funded by the P45-billion road user's tax controlled by the Road Board.
Diokno, however, received a directive from Duterte not to release the fund, until the issue on the Road Board abolition is resolved.
Diokno's move had irked the House lawmakers, prompting them to urge Duterte to fire the Budget chief.
Panelo maintained that Diokno would stay as Budget chief, as he still enjoys Duterte's trust and confidence.
Panelo added that Duterte had even instructed Diokno to skip congressional hearings at the House of Representatives with regard to the proposed 2019 budget, to avoid spat between the Budget chief and congressmen.
"We already made our statement. We stand by the integrity and competence of Secretary Diokno. All of us are in support of him. The President trusts him," the Palace official said.
"The reputation of Secretary Diokno is solid. In his 32 years of service, there is nothing that we can throw at him. He's known to be the one who says no to any irregularity or any favor that is asked of him and he's been consistent with that," he added. (SunStar Philippines)