Emergency powers ‘no match’ to traffic woes

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President Rodrigo Duterte does not need emergency powers to decongest crippling traffic jams in Metro Manila, lawmakers said on Thursday.

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Rep. Harry Roque of Kabayan party-list and Rep. Prospero Pichay of Surigao del Sur doused proposed emergency powers for the President during the first hearing conducted by the House Committee on Transportation on the plan.

Such powers are being sought by the Department of Transportation (DOTr) to allow Duterte to reorganize government offices, prevent courts from issuing Temporary Restraining Orders on transportation-related projects, enter into negotiated contracts and open subdivision roads.

Roque, however, noted that the Procurement Law already provides for emergency purchases, negotiated procurement and direct contracting in certain circumstances.

“You’re not asking for special powers. [Contained in a proposed bill on emergency powers] are motherhood statements that are already provided under the Constitution. You ask for emergency powers to urgently utilize all necessary government resources. You don’t need invocation of emergency powers for that. Police power?
That’s written already in the Constitution. You have inherent police power. Employ executive actions and measures to ensure effective implementation? You don’t need anything from Congress to exercise that,” he said.

The Procurement Law already provides for emergency purchases, Roque, a lawyer, added.

Raoul Creencia, DOTr undersecretary for legal and procurement, conceded that speedy procurement is already provided for under existing law but described the conditions for faster procurement as “restrictive.”

“There is a restrictive list on when we can adopt an alternative mode of procurement. Given that the congestion involves land and air traffic and given the JICA [Japan International Cooperation Agency] computation of economic losses, it is our position that this can be considered as a national emergency,” Creencia told lawmakers.

Roque, however, maintained that the request for emergency powers amounts to completely disregarding laws as the Transportation department deems fit.

A Traffic Crisis Act would result in exempting some purchases from the Procurement Law, he said.

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