Suarez blasts Alvarez: You’re using Road Board issue to ‘divert attention’
MANILA, Philippines–House Minority Leader Danilo Suarez has dismissed as a mere “diversion” the claims of former Speaker Pantaleon Alvarez that the attacks of the House against Budget Secretary Benjamin Diokno were due to the control over the road user’s tax.
“What’s the relevance of the Road Board [on the issue of ‘insertions’]? Congressman cannot dip their fingers [on the funds], we don’t have any authority,” the Quezon 3rd District congressman said in a press briefing on Tuesday.
“Dina-divert mo yung issue. Ano naman ‘yung relevance ng Road Board dito sa issue,” he added.
Alvarez earlier said lawmakers have earned, and stand to earn, huge kickbacks from road projects funded by the P45-billion road user’s tax controlled by the corruption-plagued Road Board. The Davao del Norte 1st District representative also said allies of Speaker Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo wanted to control the proceeds from the Motor Vehicle User’s Charge (MVUC).
Both Malacañang and the Senate wanted the Road Board abolished due to issues of corruption and irregularities hounding the agency.
The House, meanwhile, recalled its approval of a bill abolishing the Road Board.
‘Former leaders want Road Board abolished’
Suarez said some “former leaders” only wanted the Road Board abolished because the agency supposedly refused to grant their requests for the so-called “parking fund” scheme.
“Nagsumbong sa akin ang Road Board… They were being asked by some (former) leaders to dedicate (an) x amount of the money, by the time nasa P40 billion, for some of their what we call parking projects with the threat na pag hindi ninyo binigay ia-abolish namin kayo,” Suarez explained, who refused to name the lawmakers.
When asked why Malacañang wanted to abolish the Road Board, Suarez said the executive department might want to control the MVUC fund.
Suarez also defended the Road Board, arguing that if there were allegations of corruptions, then the composition of the Board should be looked at.
House maintains pro-Road Board stance
Majority Leader Rolando Andaya Jr. said they stand by their move to withdraw their support for the bill abolishing the Road Board. He also said he had a “private conversation” with President Rodrigo Duterte who said he supports the release of MVUC funds.
READ: IN THE KNOW: Road Board
The Senate passed Senate Bill 1620, which seeks Road Board’s abolition in February. The lower chamber for its part approved House Bill 7436 in May under Alvarez’s watch.
On Sept. 12, the Senate adopted HB 7436 and replaced SB 1620 with the lower House’s bill, thus dispensing the need for a bicameral conference between the two Houses to reconcile separate versions of the proposal.
Later the same day, however, the lower House, now under Arroyo’s leadership, passed a motion that voided its version of the proposed measure, placing the Road Board abolition in limbo.
Andaya and Suarez have been accusing Diokno of orchestrating the “insertion” of some P75-billion infrastructure fund in the proposed 2019 national budget without the knowledge of Duterte, the Department of Public Works and Highways, as well as those congressmen whose district would benefit.
But Diokno said the P75 billion should not be called “insertions” as these were “adjustments” that were part of the budget process.
Andaya bared his exposès after Sen. Panfilo Lacson alleged that Arroyo got P2.4 billion in “pork barrel” funds while he got P1.9 billion. Both denied Lacson’s allegations.
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