MANILA -- Minority Leader Danilo Suarez on Tuesday dispelled allegations of corruption in the Road Board as “baseless”, noting that the agency has limited authority over the use of the special funds known as the road user’s tax.
In a press conference, Suarez stressed that the responsibility over the management of the funds is a shared accountability of the Department of Public Works and Highways (DPWH), Department of Transportation (DOTr), Department of Finance (DOF), Department of Budget and Management (DBM) and transport representatives who constitute the leadership and membership of the Road Board.
“The Road Board has clearly limited authority on the funds. The entire procurement processes are in the hands of the implementing agencies,” Suarez said.
“If there are corrupt activities, the most vulnerable to corruption are processes under the stewardship of implementing agencies,” he added.
Suarez said the road user’s tax, also known as the motor vehicle users’ charge (MVUC), shall solely be used for national road maintenance (80 percent), local road maintenance (5 percent), road safety (7.5 percent), and vehicle pollution control (7.5 percent) as provided for by law.
He said the DBM includes in the special provisions in the yearly budgetary allocation of the implementing agencies the MVUC funds to be used for approved funded projects--92.7 percent to the DPWH, which is in charge of national and local road maintenance as well as road safety projects, and 7.25 percent to the DOTr, which is in charge of vehicle pollution projects.
“The power of the Road Board is limited to authorizing the use of funds for eligible projects evaluated and endorsed by the implementing agencies, and to the monitoring of project status, funding status, and periodic report preparations,” Suarez said.
“It cannot propose or undertake projects on its own. Without verified and compliant requests, the Board does not act or authorize any use of funds,” he added.
Suarez said his bloc vouches for the “purpose and usefulness” of the Road Board and the MVUC in the maintenance of road safety and improvement of road conditions.
The bill seeking the abolition of the graft-ridden agency is caught in a deadlock following the clash between the Senate and the House over such proposal.
The Senate has adopted the House version of the bill, but the lower chamber rescinded its own approval of the bill on third reading.
Budget Secretary Benjamin Diokno said President Rodrigo Duterte will immediately sign the bill into law once a copy is transmitted to the Palace.
According to a newspaper article, former Speaker Pantaleon Alvarez said President Rodrigo Duterte’s directive not to release the MVUC led the present House leadership to question Diokno over the alleged insertions by the DBM in the 2019 budget.
Alvarez claimed that this is an attempt of Speaker Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo’s allies to control the funds of the Road Board.
Coming into the defense of the present leadership, Suarez stressed that congressmen have no authority over the proceeds from the road user’s tax nor the Road Board itself.
“Congressmen cannot dip their fingers on the road board,” Suarez said.
Suarez, however, bared that former House leaders threatened to abolish the Road Board if it does not allot funding for their pet projects.
“They were being asked by some leaders to dedicate X amount of money for some of their parking projects. Gusto nilang maglagay ng projects sa iba’t ibang lugar with the threat na ‘kapag hindi niyo ibinigay, iaabolish namin kayo’ (They want projects to be funded in different areas with the threat that ‘if you don’t grant this request, we will abolish you’),” Suarez said. (PNA)
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