WHAT WENT BEFORE: Road user’s tax
In September 2009, then Sen. Miriam Defensor-Santiago led a joint inquiry by the Senate economic affairs committee, which she headed, and the public works committee into the use of the road user’s tax.
Santiago called the tax the “biggest pork barrel unaccounted for in the government” as there was no oversight committee to track how the money was being spent.
The road user’s tax, collected yearly every time vehicles are registered by their owners, is supposed to be used for road maintenance and transport infrastructure.
In November of the same year, the Senate endorsed Santiago’s resolution asking the Ombudsman to charge with plunder Rodolfo “Dodi” Puno, then Public Works Secretary Hermogenes Ebdane Jr., and other members of the Road Board for misusing the revenue from the tax.
The officials turned the road user’s tax into a pork barrel bigger than what the President or Congress was receiving, Santiago charged.
Puno, a brother of then Interior Secretary Ronaldo Puno, was executive director of the Road Board from January 2005 to April 30, 2008. Ebdane was head of the Department of Public Works and Highways (DPWH) from 2007 to October 2009 and served as chair of the Road Board during the same period.
Santiago said irregularities involving revenue from the tax included:
Release of more than P3 billion for aluminum road guards in Nueva Ecija to two contractors without public bidding. The then governor said the road guard cost less than P1 billion. The same system was reported in Laguna.
A total of 136 projects worth P1.5 billion for the 12th Association of Southeast Asian Nations (Asean) Summit implemented through negotiated procurement instead of public bidding.
Sixty-three projects worth P766.7 million implemented at contractors’ own risks, without appropriate funding and perfected contracts.
Overpricing of street lamps worth P35.5 million in Cebu and Mandaue cities.
Failure to deliver P500 million from the 2006 Asean Summit to the DPWH regional office in Central Visayas and to Cebu’s district engineering office.
Installation of P76.1 million worth of road safety devices, contrary to the purpose of road maintenance under the Special Road Support Fund.
Payment for two asphalt overlay projects even though it was short of 329,897 metric tons of bituminous surface concrete course.
Installed equipment worth P70.3 million that were not fully operational.
Santiago said that from 2001 to 2009, revenue from the tax amounted to P60.5 billion.
A 2008 Commission on Audit (COA) report on how the road user’s tax was spent, the basis of the Senate resolution, said the Road Board violated “existing budget, auditing and accounting rules and regulations.”
Among the alleged violations the COA found were overstatement of receivables amounting to P160 million, unreliable year-end balances of inventory accounts (P31.6 million), unreliable property, plant and equipment balances (P453 million), invalid charges (P76 million), irregular issuance of gasoline to private vehicles (P0.48 million), and noncompliance with prescribed controls on fuel consumption.
The COA report also said an “unreconciled” road tax collection of P1.2 billion was reported by the Land Transportation Office (LTO) and the Bureau of Internal Revenue (BIR) from 2001 to 2008. (The tax take reached P53 billion, according to the LTO, while the BIR said it was about P51 billion.) —Inquirer Research
Source: Inquirer Archives
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