Senate urges Malacañang to stop release of funds from road user’s tax

MANILA, Philippines – The Senate on Thursday, December 13, approved a resolution urging the Office of the President and the Office of the Executive Secretary not to release funds from the road users’ tax because Congress has, “in effect,” passed a bill that will abolish the Road Board.

No senator opposed Senate Minority Leader Franklin Drilon’s call to pass the measure urging the executive to stop the release of funds from taxes imposed on vehicle owners or the Motor Vehicle User's Charge (MVUC).

“We move that the Senate pass a sense of the Senate resolution urging the Road Board and the Office of the President not to release any funds which would constitute the road user’s tax now administered by the Road Board,” Drilon said.

“So be it, Mr. President, that this resolution be adopted subject to style,” he added.

The passage of the resolution came amid an apparent deadlock between the Senate and the House of Representatives, after the latter, under the leadership of Speaker Gloria Arroyo, rescinded its passage of the bill. Senate leaders earlier sought President Rodrigo Duterte's intervention on the issue.

The Senate first approved Senate Bill 1620, seeking to abolish the Road Board, on February 12, 2018. On May 15, the House, then under the leadership of bill author Pantaleon Alvarez, approved counterpart measure House Bill 7436.

There were differences in the two versions of the bill so a bicameral conference committee was initially needed to reconcile them.

But on September 12, upon motion of Senator Manny Pacquiao, co-author and sponsor of the bill, the Senate adopted HB 7436 to replace SB 1620. This meant that a bicam was no longer needed since there are no more differing provisions.

On the same day, the House, upon the motion of Majority Leader Rolando Andaya Jr, voided the House approval of the measure.

“Technically therefore, Mr. President, the bill originating from the House was passed by both chambers and therefore dispensed with the bicameral conference committee to thresh out the disagreeing provision because there was no more disagreeing provision,” Drilon said.

Senate President Vicente Sotto III has already signed the bill for enrolment for Duterte's signature. Arroyo, however, has yet to sign it.

Funds collected from MVUC go to the Road Board, supposedly for the implementation of road safety projects and maintenance and improvement of drainages.

But corruption allegations perennially hound the agency. The Commission on Audit earlier found that the agency misappropriated P90.7 billion in road user's tax. President Rodrigo Duterte himself supported the abolition of the agency. – Rappler.com

Camille Elemia

Camille Elemia is Rappler's lead reporter for media, disinformation, and democracy. She won an ILO award in 2017. She received the prestigious Fulbright-Hubert Humphrey fellowship in 2019, allowing her to further study media and politics in the US. Email camille.elemia@rappler.com

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