New effort  mounted  for Metro traffic powers

Published July 15, 2019, 12:02 AM

by Charissa Luci-Atienza & Bernie Cahiles-Magkilat


e-cartoon-jul-15-2019A new effort to get Congress to grant emergency powers to President Duterte  to resolve the problem of traffic  congestion in Metro Manila, Metro Cebu, and other big  cities of the county will be made  in the 18th Congress which begins in a few days.

Newly  elected Sen.  Francis Tolentino  has filed Senate Bill 213, to give the President  “emergency powers  to employ the necessary  government  resources, exercise or employ executive actions  and measures, unhampered  by existing laws, regulations, and procedures, to adopt  short-term, mid-term, and long-term  development plans for  a sustainable and efficient  transport  system.”

Such  a  bill was filed in  the last Congress at the start of the Duterte administration, but it somehow never made it. “We were all for  passing  the bill last Congress, if not for the failure of the Department of Transportation (DOTr)  to submit to us a list of projects that will be covered by the grant  of powers,” Sen. Grace Poe, chairman of the Senate Committee on Public Services,  said. “Everything must be well-defined. Hindi  pwede  ang blanket grant of emergency  powers under the Constitution.”

The House of Representatives  passed its version of the bill in December, 2018, but the Senate bill was delayed  by extended debates. The President later said  he does not need the emergency  powers bill, sending mixed  signals to the legislators, according  Senaor Poe.

The President explained afterwards that he gave up on the proposal as some people were raising concerns about the possibility of corruption should he be granted  emergency powers.  “If they do not want to give it,  we will not go in desperation  and  raise our hands and say, ‘No, we cannot solve it.’  In whatever way that is feasible and appropriate, even without emergency powers, we will still do what is right and proper, which is infrastructure, enforcement, discipline.”

That was in the  17th Congress.  For the coming 18th Congress, Senator Tolentino  will try again with his  new  bill. He and the other senators  known  to be allied with the administration  should be  able to allay   the  fears raised  in  the last Congress that emergency powers might be abused.

Sen. Ralph Recto has also raised a new point. Many of the country’s problems, he said the other day,  can be solved without having to rewrite the Constitution or  granting  the government emergency powers. He cited new Manila Mayor  Francisco “Isko Moreno” Domagoso  who is now cleaning up Manila  as “Exhibit A.”

We  look forward to this new effort to get the Senate  to approve  emergency powers to solve Metro Manila’s  traffic problem, along with the still undisclosed details of President Duterte’s plan  to reduce traffic time from Ayala in Makati  to Cubao  in Quezon City to  just  five minutes.