‘Go easy on crisis powers’
Senators on Wednesday aired caution on a proposed legislation to grant emergency powers for President Duterte to fix the country’s worsening traffic crisis, which experts say is costing billions of pesos a day in lost productivity.
They said public interest must be protected at all times even if the bill aims to shorten the often tedious bidding process for transportation-related projects, with Sen. Grace Poe immediately tabling the bill for expanded authority at the Senate committee on public services.
“The best course of action is to set the bill for public hearing as soon as possible so we can engage the Department of Transportation and all other stakeholders and experts to determine its necessity and if so, the best terms under which such powers will have to be carried out to achieve its purpose,” Poe, who heads the committee, said in a statement.
Senate Minority Leader Ralph Recto called for safety nets in measure “to protect public interest,” stressing that all projects and deals must be done with transparency and accountability.
Recto filed a resolution for a public inquiry “on the propriety of granting special or emergency powers” to Duterte to address the traffic crisis. He said Malacañang must provide as well clear parameters of the special powers it would need.
“It is incumbent upon Congress to inquire from the Executive Department the specific powers being requested and thereafter ascertain whether or not the grant of emergency powers is indeed necessary and proper and will enable the President to implement programs that will solve the country’s traffic woes, unhindered by the usual bureaucratic delays,” read Recto’s resolution.
Recto said solving the traffic woes may “simply entail common sense and political will,” including the full implementation of road rules backed by a stronger traffic police force.
Senate President Pro Tempore Franklin Drilon, who authored the emergency powers measure, said Congress should ensure that the law would be airtight against loopholes to protect against corruption and ensure it would not be disadvantageous to the government.
It is “of the highest importance that the bill will provide safeguards that can adequately protect the system and the people from abuses,” he said.
Under Drilon’s Senate Bill No. 11 or Transportation Crisis Act of 2016, President Duterte would be authorized to use shortcuts in procurement so that government could speed up infrastructure and transportation projects as Metro Manila and other cities battle to decongest its often clogged roads.
If approved, the measure would give the administration two years to do away with rigorous public bidding and instead use alternative procurement methods for “construction, repair, rehabilitation, improvement or maintenance of transportation projects” aimed at addressing traffic congestion.
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