House Majority Leader Rolando Andaya, Jr. on Monday said that both Houses of Congress agreed to abolish the Road Board and its funds shall be transferred to the General Fund under the General Appropriations Act (GAA).
In a press briefing, Andaya said he had a meeting with Senate Majority Leader Juan Miguel Zubiri and Senator Ralph Recto about the Road Board and its abolition.
“We have agreed in principle that 1) the Road Board will now be abolished and 2) its funds will be transferred to the General Fund. Therefore, it will be now covered by the General Appropriations Act,” Andaya said during a press briefing.
He said the House has already withdrawn its bill which is similar to the Senate version. “We will introduce amendments to be passed on second reading," he added.
Upon consultation with the Members of Congress, Andaya said they discovered there was an erroneous referral of the particular bill. It was passed by the House Committee on Government Reorganization.
But in reality, Andaya said the bill was a tax measure and the creation of the Road Board was merely incidental to the establishment of the Motor Vehicles Users Charge (MVUC) being collected by the Land Transportation Office (LTO).
“In this situation, we will still work overtime and have the tax measure, as amended, sent to the Senate by Monday. We will do our work today and the plenary will take cognizance of that particular measure. We will introduce amendments, recognize it as a tax measure and put in the proper amendment for the Senate to tackle on Monday,” said Andaya.
Andaya said the special account provided in the GAA will be deleted and it will no longer be considered as a separate account. It will now be part of the national budget or the General Fund to be used for the GAA, said Andaya.
“So, makikita na po ang line item kung saan gagamitin ito. Hindi na separate na pondo na ang DBM lang at mga miyembro ng Road Board ang nakakakita. So, ‘yung nakalagay na pondo sa special account na ‘yan, mahigit kumulang siguro mga 50 bilyones, e ilalagay na po sa budget at iisa-isahin po ang pupuntahang proyekto,” said Andaya.
Just like any other tax measure, Andaya emphasized that under the Constitution, the House will have the first crack and the Senate will wait for their (House) version.
“We have a common document with the Senate. The contents are similar. We will have our own little tweaks on the matter,” said Andaya on the question of what working documents will be used,” he said.
He said it will not go back to the House Committee on Ways and Means, as it will be the Plenary that will take over the bill. "The Plenary is supreme over any other committee," he said.
Andaya said they will hold the bicameral meeting on Monday as requested by the Senate and make sure that the bill is specific to what President Rodrigo Duterte has instructed.
“Iyon na nga po iyon. This is, again, a tax measure. We also want to make sure, since pagkukunan ng pondo ito, na iyong pagkolekta ng MVUC matutuloy pa rin. Kase kung patayin mo lang yung bill wala ka nang kokolektahin. So that is another angle that we are looking at, because this is precisely a tax measure. It not just a law creating a Road Board. It is actually a tax measure na incidental lang yung creation ng Road Board,” said Andaya.
He said the collection will still be called MVUC because in effect, it's still for the benefit of the motorists. “Kaya lang yung paraan ng paggastos hindi na patago. Line item na,” said Andaya.
In a hearing held on Tuesday, Andaya stressed that Budget Secretary Benjamin Diokno has been very adamant in saying that the Department of Budget and Management (DBM) does not procure projects, or does not implement projects.
“That is not true. There is a small, really small office attached to the DBM which is called the Procurement Service-DBM. And the Procurement Service-DBM as it is called, procures and implements projects. So, upon questioning yesterday of the director of that particular office, Director Bingel Gutierrez, who was appointed by Secretary Diokno, I asked her the mandate of the office and that she told me that the mandate was for the procurement of commonly used goods and supplies for the national government to the tune of P7 billion pesos every year,” said Andaya.
But upon further questioning, Andaya said he found out through the information voluntarily given by Gutierrez that the particular small office also did procurement for 20 other departments, and the biggest in 2018 was for the Department of Transportation (DOTr) to the amount of P168 billion for just one year.
“The budget of the DOTr for capital outlay last year was only P38 billion. So how could you now have done that? You procured for one year worth P168 billion for just one department when that department’s budget is only P38 billion. So, I think that's another question Secretary Diokno has to answer. We will give you the details of the projects tomorrow but let me advance the information these are all the Build, Build, Build Projects of the National Government,” Andaya said.
“Unknown to most members of the House. How did it go there? Smells like the Dengvaxia contract all over again. A huge amount of money procured by a small office with no expertise on this matter, he said.
Photo from Rolando "Nonoy" Andaya Jr Facebook page