Press Release
September 15, 2010


Senator Miriam Defensor today appealed to both houses of Congress to exercise strict oversight on the multi-billion Road Users Fund in the 2011 budget.

In her letters to Senate President Juan Ponce Enrile and Speaker Speaker Feliciano Belmonte, Santiago asked them to personally intervene and ensure that the road fund is deposited in the national treasury and subsequently appropriated by Congress in the upcoming 2011 budget.

"Until the recent past, the Fund was deposited directly with the Department of Public Works and Highways, and released by the Road Fund Board without congressional scrutiny. As I pointed out in a privilege speech late last year, that anomalous procedure provided occasion for freewheeling plunder of the P60 billion Road Fund from the road users tax," Santiago said in her letter.

In a privilege speech in November last year, Santiago recommended the filing of plunder charges against former public works secretary Hermogenes Ebdane and former Road Board executive director Rodolfo Puno for their involvement in the alleged anomalous disbursement of the road users tax.

In that speech, Santiago said Congress neither scrutinized nor exercised oversight over the road funds which amounted to a total of P 60.5 billion from 2001 and 2009.

Santiago said that Congress's judicious exercise of its powers through their respective finance committees would "save a grateful nation from continued plunder by faceless bureaucrats, who are now under criminal investigation by the Ombudsman."

"Even more importantly, we in Congress would also be able to ensure that the Fund will be devoted, according to law, to the proper maintenance of roads, drainage systems, and other public works that will guarantee our citizens' safety during the flash floods occasioned by strange typhoons emanating from climate change," Santiago said.

Santiago last year said that the widespread and catastrophic damage caused by typhoons Ondoy and Pepeng could have been mitigated if the road fund was properly used for the repair of drainage systems and other public infrastructure.

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