By Mario Casayuran
Sen. Sherwin T. Gatchalian expressed confidence on Saturday that President Duterte’s statement favoring the abolition of the graft-ridden Road Board (RB) would end the dispute between the Senate and the House of Representatives over the issue.
In a radio interview, Gatchalian said the President’s decision to abolish the Board could have been based on reports reaching him that past and present RB officials have to explain why the multibillion-peso projects of the board were patently anomalous and questionable based on findings of the Commission on Audit (COA).
Gatchalian said a Senate hearing on the RB issue showed that its control on the release and use of RB motor vehicle tax collections amounting to P90 billion was very loose.
The release of funds was based on influence peddling and kickback from projects are apparent, he said.
He cited his experience as a mayor of Valenzuela then when he was approached by a contractor who asked him if he wants a road-related project in his locality and told him that he would work for the release of funds for the projects.
This means, according to Gatchalian, that the contractor has connections inside the RB and this means he would fix him. ‘
He thus joined his colleagues in the Senate that the billions of pesos in taxes on road users’ charge collections should be funneled to the General Fund where Congress exercises its constitutional right over the purse.
The RB is just an added bureaucratic layer and that the projects could be done easily by the Department of Public Works and Highways, Gatchalian said.
Both the Senate and the House of Representatives have passed their versions of a bill seeking the abolition of the Road Board but the Lower House, at the last minute, rescinded its version.
Senate leaders maintained that the legislative process of passing the bill has been completed and an enrolled bill should then be transmitted to Malacañang for enactment into law.