THE SENATE is all for the abolition of the Road Board and the President is ready to sign the law abolishing the controversial agency, but a copy of the bill approved by both chambers of Congress never made it to Malacañang.
Presidential Spokesperson Salvador S. Panelo, in a press briefing on Tuesday morning, Dec. 18, said President Rodrigo R. Duterte will sign the bill into law as soon as it reaches his table.
“As soon as it is given to him,” Mr. Panelo said when asked if the President will sign the bill and how soon.
“We want that the fund be returned to the Treasury, and then let Congress appropriate again for specific purpose,” he added.
The Senate passed Senate Bill 1620, which seeks the abolition of the Road Board, last February. The House of Representatives approved the counterpart House Bill 7436 last May.
The Senate adopted the House version last Sept. 12, but later on the same day, the House of Representatives rescinded the bill’s approval.
Senate President Vicente C. Sotto III has vowed to file another bill removing the agency in the 18th Congress if the House remains adamant on retaining it.
“When July 1 comes, we will file a new abolition bill if they don’t want to believe that it is abolished. Let’s abolish it again. In July 1, we will pass a bill,” Mr. Sotto told reporters on Tuesday.
Mr. Sotto also said that if the House will stand by its earlier move of rescinding its approval, the matter should be brought before the judiciary.
“If they will still push for it, perhaps somebody should bring it to the proper venue, if courts are needed, in order to resolve this. Let it be,” he said.
In the meantime, the senate leader said that he intends to immediately transmit a copy of the supposedly jointly approved bill to Malacañang.
Senate Minority Leader Franklin M. Drilon, in a press release last Monday, also said that the “bill should be sent immediately to the President’s desk for his action. We should let the President decide. It is a political decision.”
The Road Board, under Republic Act No. 8794, is tasked to manage the funds collected from the Motor Vehicle User’s Charge (MVUC), which is used for road maintenance and drainage, installation of traffic lights and road safety devices, and for air pollution control.
However, the agency has been hounded by corruption allegations.
The Commission on Audit (CoA), in its 2019 report, pointed out that the agency failed to efficiently implement the projects identified for the MVUC collections from 2013 to 2016.
Under House Bill No. 7436, which the Senate adopted, the MVUC collections will be remitted directly to the National Treasury and will be appropriated for projects of the Department of Public Works and Highways (DPWH), Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR), and the Department of Transportation (DoTr).
Meanwhile, House Minority Leader Danilo E. Suarez of the 3rd district of Quezon denied corruption allegations against the House of Representatives for withdrawing its decision in the abolition of the Road Board.
“Congressman cannot dip their fingers into the Road Board,” Mr. Suarez said in a briefing on Tuesday.
“If there is any allegation of corruption in the Road Board, look at the composition of the Road Board,” he said, noting that the Board does not include any member from Congress.
Mr. Suarez made the statement amid allegations against congressmen since they rescinded their approval under the leadership of Speaker Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo.
Mr. Suarez said the House is unlikely to undo its withdrawal of the approval because there is no time to legislate another abolition bill.
“I don’t think we have the material time to legislate the abolition of the Board,” he said. — Camille A. Aguinaldo, Arjay L. Balinbin and Charmaine A. Tadalan