Andaya, Suarez among those lobbying for release of road user's tax to be used as campaign fund, DBM chief claims
Some lawmakers, including House Majority Leader Rolando Andaya Jr. and House Minority Leader Danilo Suarez, have asked for the release of the proceeds of the road user's tax to be used in their campaign expenses for the 2019 elections, Budget Secretary Benjamin Diokno alleges on Wednesday.
In a press briefing in Malacanang, Diokno remained firm that he would only release funds from the road user's tax once the move to abolish the Road Board is addressed.
"Many have approached me. I won't name names. Many politicians have approached me asking about the status of the road user's fund, when will it be released and so forth. I said, I won't release it until that issue on the Road Board is settled," he said.
Malacanang is pushing for the abolition of the Road Board as it allegedly has become a huge source of corruption and kickbacks.
Citing a Commission on Audit report before, Diokno noted that P90.7 billion of the Motor Vehicles User Charges (MVUC) was "misappropriated" during the administration of former President and now Speaker Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo.
In 2004 when Arroyo ran for the presidency, he said that the fund from road user's tax was used to pay street sweepers all over the country.
"That is not road maintenance in the first place. You'd buy brooms and then give uniforms and then you have bloated...you just sign there. That was the tenor of that...findings by COA that P90.7 billion was misappropriated," he said, noting during that time, Suarez was head of the Road Board.
Asked later if Suarez and Andaya were among those who approached him seeking for the release of the MVUCs, he said, "Lots of congressmen, yes. Yes, they are included."
According to Diokno, one of the reasons it took months before the House of Representatives approved the proposed P3.757 trillion budget for next year was the executive branch's strong stance not to release the fund from road user's tax.
Suarez and Andaya were among those congressmen who bombarded Diokno with questions during the Question Hour at the House last week. The Palace has hit some lawmakers for being disrespectful to Diokno during his appearance at the Lower Chamber.
Asked why Suarez could have grilled him during the Question Hour, Diokno said, "I think he is speaking for himself and maybe for some other members of - because as you know it's election time. They might be expecting that (fund from road user's tax) to be released to be used for their campaign. But I tell you, we will not release."
A day after the Question Hour, the House came out with a resolution calling President Rodrigo Duterte to remove Diokno in the Cabinet. But Duterte rejected the call.
Diokno reiterated he never applied for the job as budget chief.
He said if anyone from the House is interested to be the budget secretary, that person could have it.
"You know, I did not apply for this job, okay, but I serve at the pleasure of the President," he said.
Asked on rumors that Arroyo was interested to become the budget chief, Diokno said, "I thought (she wants to replace Finance) Secretary (Carlos) Dominguez, not mine. Finance, isn't it there are rumors?"
He said when Dominguez learned about the rumors, he heard the latter saying, "interesting."
Arroyo is on her third and last term as congresswoman of Pampanga. She is not running for any elective position in the May 2019 polls. Celerina Monte/DMS