A battle of wits and will anticipated between the House of Representatives and Senate contingent to the bicameral conference panel on the proposed 2019 General Appropriations Act was the reason behind the change in leadership roles in the House.
As the House elected Deputy Speaker Fredenil Castro as the new majority leader Monday, the veteran Capiz lawmaker nominated his predecessor, Camarines Sur Rep. Rolando Andaya Jr., to assume the vacancy in the House Committee on Appropriations.
The move will put Andaya in the forefront of the bicameral panel deliberations on the budget measure as head of the House contingent.
“We are now confronted with two choices: Rubber-stamping the passage of a greatly-flawed budget on time, or using more time to craft a better one purged of its in-born defects,” stated Andaya.
Leaders of both legislative contingents expect tense deliberations due to various budget controversies arising from the alleged insertion of “pork barrel” funds by Department of Budget Management in the bicameral committee proceedings.
“The House leadership under Speaker Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo has accepted my offer to relinquish my post and lead the contingent tasked to complete one major unfinished business left in our legislative calendar: The passage of the 2019 national budget,” declared Andaya.
Andaya’s statement doused speculations that Malacanang is behind his removal as majority leader.
The Bicolano lawmaker has been engaged in a long-running feud with Budget Secretary Benjamin Diokno, whose relief as Budget chief was sought by the House in a resolution adopted last December.
Meanwhile, the House of Representatives last night unanimously passed on third and final reading the total abolition of the Road Board and the transfer of the road user’s tax to the general fund.
With all 180 congressmen present voting in favor of the measure, House Bill 7436 providing for the abolition of the agency will be submitted for the second time to the Senate.
Now categorized as a tax measure, the Senate is expected to vote again on whether or not to adopt the House version en toto as it did in the previous one that congressmen passed but later recalled.
Under the new version of the bill, the road user’s tax will be categorized as a fund that will be part of the general fund and used for purposes of rehabilitating roads and bridges damaged by natural disasters.
Andaya said the collected tax under the motor vehicles users charge may be allocated for rehabilitation of infrastructure damaged by natural calamities, initially for areas in Camarines Sur, Albay, and other provinces hit by tropical depression “Usman.” (Ben Rosario)