MANILA, Philippines (UPDATED) – For Malacañang, the need for House Speaker Gloria Macapagal Arroyo to sign the bill abolishing the Road Board may only be “ministerial.”
Presidential Spokesman Salvador Panelo said on Friday, December 21, that Executive Secretary Salvador Medialdea had voiced this as Malacañang contemplates the impasse on the Road Board abolition.
The Road Board, attached to the Department of Public Works and Highways, evaluates requests for funding of transport-related projects using motor vehicle user’s charge (MVUC) or road users’ tax. It was established under Republic Act 8794 in 2000 under then-president and now Speaker Arroyo.
Road Board officials have long been accused of graft, with the Commission on Audit saying that the agency misappropriated P90.7 billion in road users’ tax. This has prompted talk about its abolition.
“The problem is, according to the House, it wasn’t signed by Speaker Arroyo but ES (Executive Secretary Medialdea) was saying that that’s ministerial. Still, they (House) can say, ‘We did not sign it so there may be a legal question on whether or not that is, from the point of view of the law, an enrolled bill ready for signing,'” said Panelo.
To resolve the legal question, “somebody will have to go to the courts,” he added.
The consolidated bill lacks Arroyo’s signature and thus cannot be considered an enrolled bill which President Rodrigo Duterte can sign into law.
But Panelo also presented a scenario in which Duterte would sign the bill into law even without Arroyo’s signature. It would then be up to House members to challenge the law in court.
“If the President really wants to end this, he will sign it and then they will go to the court. Those from the House, they may question it,” said Panelo.
The spokesman, who is also Chief Presidential Legal Counsel, said he agrees with Senate President Vicente Sotto III that the House lost jurisdiction over their bill when they submitted it to the Senate, which adopted it.
“So they cannot be rescinding what they have submitted to us and we have already adopted the position,” said Panelo.
Duterte determined to abolish Road Board
Duterte reiterated his determination to abolish the Road Board, contrary to the claim of House Majority Floor Leader Rolando Andaya Jr that the Chief Executive wants to keep the agency.
Panelo said on Friday that Duterte himself had told him he wants the allegedly corrupt agency dissolved.
“I talked to the President last night and I asked him specifically what his position is…I will quote his exact words: ‘Day 1, I was already against this road users’ tax because ginagawa lang gatasan ng mga corrupt na pulitiko (it is the milking cow of corrupt politicians),'” said Panelo.
“He doesn’t like it. He wants it abolished,” he added.
Senator Aquilino Pimentel III also said that Duterte told him the same thing last December 17, “in very categorical terms.”
“This incident should clearly be indicative of President Duterte’s desire to abolish the road board,” Pimentel told reporters on Friday, December 21.
Andaya had earlier claimed that, back in September, Duterte had told him and Arroyo that he does not want the Road Board abolished. He also claimed Road Board chief Chito Clavano had offered to resign but that Duterte did not accept his resignation.
Panelo said Andaya likely misunderstood the President.
“Either he was not listening to the President closely or he misunderstood what the President said,” said Duterte’s spokesman.
Duterte had voiced his intent to abolish the Road Board back on September 9 when he said in a speech, “When I go back next week, I will abolish one to 3 agencies. That Road Board, they have to go.”
The Road Board abolition and the road users’ tax it controls has sparked an unexpected clash between the House and the executive branch.
The House, under Arroyo’s leadership, rescinded its bill on the Road Board abolition approved during the speakership of Duterte ally Pantaleon Alvarez.
The House version of the bill had been adopted by the Senate to fast track its signing into law but the House’s withdrawal has put the bill in limbo. – Rappler.com
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