BEFORE he can spend a single day in Malacañang, our incoming President Rody Duterte tells us, he has already dealt with his own Yolanda crisis. He does not have to wait for Mother Nature to strike with her fury. He does not have to wait for a foreign power to invade our country. There is already a crisis waiting for him.
That crisis is none other than the humongous traffic gridlock in our national capital.
We could agree with him that the traffic, which reduced President Benigno B.S. Aquino III and his government into total helplessness, is indeed very bad.
After railing for years against the domination by imperial Manila of the rest of the country, our incoming President is now telling us that Manila, which means all of Metropolitan Manila, is a “dead city.”
We don’t agree. And we think this is just one of his “preposterous statements” that he instructed us not to believe. For the first lessons in Philippine history and geography tell us that Manila is fittingly exalted as “the most noble and ever loyal city” because of its great service and resilience in the face of war and invasion, as capital to the entire Philippine archipelago.
Manila cannot be dead, being the home of over 10 million of our people, and the workplace of an additional 12 million whose dwellings are in the adjacent areas.
But it cheers us that soon-to-be President Duterte believes, by his own experience, calculation and analysis, that Manila has been slain by the traffic gridlock. And he will end this gridlock to bring back Manila to life.
He has announced that after he is sworn into office next Thursday he will proclaim a traffic crisis or emergency. This is preparatory to seeking from the new and 17th Congress, which will convene on July 25 emergency powers that will arm and enable him to vanquish the traffic problem in our capital.
Because Mr. Duterte has walled himself from serious media questioning, information about this has come to us in trickles and rumors. He has not spelled out why he believes Manila is dead, and why he needs extraordinary powers to resurrect the corpse.
Some members of Congress—in both the House and Senate—have taken Mr. Duterte seriously enough to give the matter urgent thought. Leading voices in both houses promise that our new President will get legislative support for emergency powers. And he doesn’t have to make case before the congressmen, the majority of whom have defected to his ruling coalition.
One legislator who has taken Mr. Duterte at his word is former President and now Pampanga Rep. Gloria Macapagal Arroyo. She favors granting him additional powers to deal with the deteriorating traffic situation in Metro Manila. She is set to file a bill seeking emergency powers for him in the 17th Congress.
Titled “The traffic crisis Act of 2016,” Mrs. Arroyo’s bill declares in its explanatory note that the traffic congestion in Metro Manila “impedes progress and leads to a situation where billions are lost daily in fuel cost, man hours and opportunities.”
With additional powers, the incoming government could speed up the completion of infrastructure projects and introduce drastic traffic reduction measures in order to achieve its annual growth rate target of 7 percent.
The emergency powers for Duterte shall be effective for two years, says the Arroyo bill.
Members of the Duterte team have dramatized the emergency powers request in the threatening terms: “No emergency powers, no solution.”
President Duterte can only provide band-aid solutions if he fails to secure emergency powers to solve the traffic nightmare in Metro Manila, says incoming Justice Secretary Vitaliano Aguirre.
We think the issue of emergency powers must be resolved on the basis of prudence and probity.
Prudence because the grant of emergency powers is not the normal way of doing things in our constitutional system. Probity because we should make sure that the powers are exercised with integrity, lest emergency powers become a catch-all solution every time the new administration faces a difficult problem.