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Rep. Mandanas stripped of House panel chairmanship
The online news portal of TV5

(UPDATE 2 - 6:49 p.m.)  MANILA, Philippines - Batangas Rep. Hermilando Mandanas was stripped of his chairmanship of the powerful House Committee on Ways and Means, Speaker Feliciano Belmonte Jr. told reporters on Wednesday. 

Mandanas was among the lawmakers who did not sign a resolution calling for the impeachment of Chief Justice Renato Corona. 

But Belmonte denied that Mandanas' removal had something to do with the latter's refusal to support the move against Corona. 

“That was a decision made before the impeachment. Bad timing lang [It was just a bad timing],” Belmonte told reporters in a text message.

Mandanas, a member of President Aquino III's Liberal Party since 2003, said that he would soon leave LP. 

“I told the Speaker and (LP president) Mar Roxas that I will leave the party once they remove me as chairman, I guess I have no choice now,” he said.

Asked why Mandanas was stripped of his chairmanship, Belmonte said,  “Different perspectives lang [It's because of different perspectives].”

Davao City Rep. Isidro Ungab will replace Mandanas, according to Majority Leader Neptali Gonzales II. 

Gonzales said Mandanas had been advocating issues contrary to the position of the party, such as his call that local government units should also have share in their Internal Revenue Allotment (IRA) from earnings collected by the Bureau of Customs.

Local government units source their IRA from Bureau of Internal Revenue tax collections. 

“His positions as chairman of the ways and means committee arecontrary to the positions of the party,” Gonzales said.

He added that the party had been putting on hold the decision to remove Mandanas from the committee. 

However, the House leadership had to do it Wednesday because it was the last day of session before Congress goes on holiday break, according to Gonzales. 

The IRA issue has been his advocacy since he had been governor of Batangas, according to Mandanas. He said he would continue to pursue the issue before the appropriate court.

Mandanas also said that his push for the passage of the sin tax bill had made him at odds with Malacanang.  

He said he wanted to pass the bill at the committee level so plenary debates could begin.

However, Mandanas said Batanes Rep. Henedina Abad told him to delay it because Malacanang would come up with its own version of the proposed measure. 

The budget watchdog Social Watch Philippines said the sin tax measure could help shore up government coffers.

Mandanas denied that his move for the IRA was political. There had been talks that he was lobbying for additional IRA to gather support from local government units for his senatorial bid.