SOME senators are not too enthusiastic about a proposal to grant incoming President Rodrigo Duterte emergency powers to solve the traffic crisis in Metro Manila because they believe that it only takes political will to address the problem.
Senate Majority Leader Vicente Sotto 3rd on Tuesday said there is a need for Congress to know what powers are involved in the proposal, noting that the word “emergency” has many connotations.
“Right now, simple political will can resolve most problems in traffic,” Sotto said in a text message.
Senator-elect Sherwin Gatchalian agreed, noting that emergency powers give the executive department very broad powers, including those involving biddings and contracting and it is for these reasons that there is a need to find out first the strategy of the next government in addressing traffic congestion.
“We should not rely on mere band-aid solution. We have to know why they need emergency powers and what they plan to do with [them],” Gatchalian told reporters in his first news conference after winning in the May 9 senatorial race.
Although he said is not totally against granting emergency powers to Duterte, he maintained that he would rather see the government address the worsening traffic situation in Metro Manila without additional powers.
Another incoming senator, Joel Villanueva, said other options should be considered like asking local and national leaders to help find solutions to vehicle congestion in Metro Manila.
Villanueva added that the government can convene a working group to look into the proposed extension of powers and what can be done through concerted efforts of different leaders at the national and local levels.
Incoming Senator Leila de Lima viewed the use of emergency powers to solve the country’s problems worrisome.
While she is willing to support measures that will ease traffic congestion through the expansion of mass transit systems and the reduction of vehicular volume on major thoroughfares, she believes that it will be better if these are achieved without the use of emergency powers.
“We cannot always do that without eventually emasculating the legislative branch. That is why emergency powers are only reserved for emergency situations. Congress cannot always be expected to give up its powers at the slightest justification for the need of emergency powers,” she pointed out
Incoming Transportation Secretary Arthur Tugade earlier said the Duterte administration will ask Congress to grant the incoming leader emergency powers to solve Metro Manila’s traffic mess.
A solutions eyed by the next administration is possibly opening some residential subdivisions to traffic.
“Opening up villages will not help. It will merely create additional traffic areas. They should first implement a complete ‘no parking’ in the entire Metro Manila. The villages are filled with parked cars also, so what’s the point?” Sotto said.
Sen. Grace Poe expressed support to the proposal but she cited the need for the next government to explain the terms of the emergency powers the Duterte administration may have in mind.
“Congress will have to review the terms and set the necessary parameters or safeguards. It is in the great interest of the public that we join hands across political affiliations to lick this traffic woes once and for all,” said Poe, who will head the Senate public services committee.
Sen. Aquilino Pimentel 3rd, the next Senate president, supports the proposal to give Duterte emergency powers.
Outgoing Senate President Franklin Drilon is also open to the idea but, like most senators, he also would like to see the specific powers to be granted.
At the House of Representatives, lawmakers warned that Duterte should not get high on the scent of emergency powers by scrapping biddings.
“That’s an overkill. One doesn’t need emergency powers to handle traffic problems in Metro Manila. Just fast-track the projects already in the pipeline under or being built by the Aquino administration,” Ifugao Rep. Teddy Baguilat said.
“Emergency powers cannot be trifled with. [They] should be sought with caution, lest [they become]addictive,” Baguilat added.
Even Duterte’s allies in the 17th Congress, Representatives Luz Ilagan of Gabriela and Sherwin Tugna of Citizens Battle Against Corruption, also expressed reservations.
Ilagan noted that drastic solutions should not compromise good governance.
“Thinking out of the box, taking radical steps might be necessary. But doing away with the bidding[s]should be studied carefully. It might open the gates of corruption,” she pointed out.
“The worsening traffic situation is already a national catastrophe. With a P2.4 billion loss per day, it is a national crisis that requires the exercise of police powers of the state, including doing away with bidding[s]. But I believe the Duterte administration will be better equipped if it seeks the support of Congress by having an enabling law to support the measures to solve traffic,” Tugna said.
But for reelected Eastern Samar Rep. Ben Evardone, the grant of emergency powers to scrap biddings is justifiable since the bidding process takes too long.
WITH LLANESCA T. PANTI