‘No need for emergency powers’
Marikina Rep. Bayani Fernando expressed concern that the possible grant of emergency powers to President Duterte to solve the traffic crisis in Metro Manila may overstep on one of the judiciary’s key functions.
Fernando, the vice chair of the House committee on transportation, explained that Congress cannot come out with a law that would essentially counter the courts’ ability to issue injunction orders. He pointed out that such a scenario was possible only during martial law when then President Ferdinand Marcos had control of the executive, legislative and judicial branches of government.
“[To issue] injunction [orders] is a policy of a coequal branch of government which is the judiciary. We cannot legislate a law that would meddle with that,” Fernando told reporters in a roundtable interview on Tuesday night.
Fernando, a former Metropolitan Manila Development Authority chair, noted that in fact, the government “doesn’t need emergency powers” to solve the traffic crisis. Instead, he proposed that government insist on its power of eminent domain and set up a contingent fund that would compensate complainants should it lose possible disputes.
“Why don’t we give the courts an excuse to allow government to proceed [with its projects] while the case is being tried by having this guarantee that there is money appropriated for whatever damage may be incurred?” he asked.
In its list of programs to be undertaken once emergency powers are granted to Mr. Duterte, the Department of Transportation indicated that “no court, except the Supreme Court, may issue any [temporary restraining order] against the government on acquisition, clearance and development of the right-of-way, procurement, commencement, termination and authorization of other lawful activities necessary for transportation projects.”
Fernando noted that government projects end up being stalled in court cases, usually because it is also the agency’s fault for getting the wrong specifications, for example, in a particular project.
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