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Just a weep of corruption

business / Columnists
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Just a weep of corruption

/ 05:13 AM October 02, 2017

It is now almost certain. The government, under the administration of the motor-biking Duterte Harley, will abolish the low-key, money-flowing-out-of-its-ears Road Board.

From what I heard, the House of Representatives has finalized the schedule of hearings for the board’s abolition, marked as House Bill 6236, initiated by Speaker Pantaleon Alvarez.

The House hearings promised to be explosive, more than those in the Senate, which already started its own probe early this month.

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Alvarez actually blew his top as two “gunners” of somebody big in the Road Board, hired as consultants, demanded from Alvarez a little “commission,” equivalent to 20 percent of the project cost that the board would cover.

What happened to the 10-percent rule in government projects? Did it became obsolete a long time ago?

Anyway, the two legendary “gunners” already extorted several millions of pesos from a senator and other congressmen. As part of their modus operandi, they would simply settle for the choice of contractors for the projects if the lawmakers refused to give the 20-percent commission.

When the abolition became hot news, however, some contractors started singing that they, too, were victims of the 20-percent rule, even volunteering to testify in the hearings.

Not too long ago in 2009, the late former Senator Miriam Defensor Santiago became the first lawmaker to expose the wholesale corruption in the Road Board.

It all started some 18 years ago when Republic Act 8794 created the Road Board to manage the motor vehicle’s users charge (MVUC), which is the highest amount in your Land Transportation Office car registration receipt.

Today, the MVUC ranges from P2,000 to P12,000 annually, depending on the size and age of your car. Based on latest data from the Philippine Statistics Authority, this country had almost 7.5 million registered vehicles as of 2012.

This Road Board should be swimming in cash!

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Anyway, Santiago called the Road Board a “secret pork barrel,” and while it was an attached agency of the Department of Public Works and Highways (DPWH), it was actually an independent republic.

Lawmakers in the past complained against the Road Board, albeit they did not want its abolition. They only wanted the MVUC to go to LGUs and, thus, under their control, which could just be another form of highway robbery.

According to the Commission on Audit, the Road Board “irregularly” used funds of about P1.66 billion in 2013 alone. Note that the board has already existed for 18 years.

In its media campaign to neutralize the Alvarez offensive, the Road Board disowned the “gunners”, claiming that the two used fake documents and that the board did not authorize their actions.

Of course! It was an extortion out and out! How could it be official?

By the way, I also heard somebody big in the Road Board, who was said to be rather close to Duterte Harley, having helped in the presidential campaign in 2016, already severed his ties with the two “gunners”.

Still, the question remained: Do we really need the Road Board?

Commenting on its abolition, Budget Secretary Benjamin Diokno, who sits in the board, had this to say: “It’s about time.”

Another Cabinet member in the board, Finance Secretary Carlos Dominguez, noted that “it usurps the function of Congress to appropriate government funds.”

In its media campaign, the Road Board noted that, under Duterte Harley, it was already placed under the Office of the President (OP), thus hinting that corruption actually happened in the past.

And so being in the OP, it could no longer be corrupt?

Two weeks ago, during a business conference in Mindanao, Duterte Harley himself said that the Road Board was so corrupt that he just would have to abolish it, meaning, he agreed with the prevailing mood in Congress.

Hmmm, and he would not fire or put its officials in jail?

Perhaps he is still waiting to get even just a whiff of corruption to kick out the big weeping bosses in the Road Board.

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