Diokno reserving road tax funds for admin allies? ‘Nonsense,’ says Panelo

Pia Ranada
Diokno reserving road tax funds for admin allies? ‘Nonsense,’ says Panelo
Malacañang maintains that President Rodrigo Duterte still wants the Road Board abolished

MANILA, Philippines – Malacañang denied that Budget Secretary Benjamin Diokno is refusing to release funds from road users’ tax in order to reserve them for administration allies in preparation for the 2019 elections.

“It’s nonsense,” Presidential Spokesperson and Chief Presidential Legal Counsel Salvador Panelo told Rappler on Tuesday, December 18, in a message.

House Majority Leader Rolando Andaya Jr had made this accusation against Diokno after the deadlock in Congress over the Road Board’s abolition.

Panelo said Malacañang is still all for moves to abolish the office, which has been hounded by corruption allegations, including a Commission on Audit finding that the agency misappropriated P90.7 billion in road users’ tax.

“Yes, that is what is needed,” he said when asked if Malacañang backs the abolition of the Road Board. Panelo added that Duterte would sign the bill abolishing the office “as soon as it is given to him.”

Duterte is also determined not to release the road users’ tax while there is a bill seeking to abolish the Road Board.

“His stand is not to release and return the fund to the Treasury and let Congress appropriate as it deems fit,” Panelo told Rappler.

The bill to abolish the Road Board is in limbo after the House rescinded its version of the bill, House Bill 7436, approved when Davao del Norte 1st District Representative Pantaleon Alvarez was still Speaker.

The Senate had adopted the House bill in order to fast-track the legislative process and so that Duterte could sign the bill into law sooner.

Without the House approving its own bill, the fate of the Road Board is uncertain. In the meantime, Diokno has stopped the release of the road users’ tax, said to amount to P45 billion.

The budget chief said it was Duterte himself who gave instructions not to release the funds yet. – Rappler.com 

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Pia Ranada

Pia Ranada is a senior reporter for Rappler covering Philippine politics and environmental issues. For tips and story suggestions, email her at pia.ranada@rappler.com.