Several senators gave different opinions on the proposal to grant emergency powers to President Rodrigo Duterte to fix the traffic problem in Metro Manila.
In a statement, Senator Grace Poe said a Senate bill to grant emergency powers to address the traffic mess has been assigned to the public services committee, which she chairs.
She said 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."
"I share the exasperation of our countrymen who have suffered long enough. Thus I fully support all efforts to alleviate the suffering of our people the quickest way possible and I am ready to do my share as chairman of the Senate public services committee to collaborate with the executive in order to fast-track the process and assure that the law we will come up with is what we really need to effectively address the traffic mess that has paralyzed our economy and our people," Poe said.
Senate Minority Leader Ralph Recto, meanwhile, laid conditions on the granting of emergency powers, saying all programs and projects, especially contracts that will require sovereign guarantees, must be transparent and FOI-compliant.
Recto said projects such as toll roads must also be affordable for the public. "Gaano kadalas itataas, kung toll ano fee. Same thing with airports, seaports," he said.
He added that projects must be approved by the NEDA board and must comply with the standards of accountability and transparency, consumer rights, affordability, public access, safety and security.
Recto added "not all solutions require cement" such as the strict implementation of traffic rules and clearing of roads from obstructions such as illegally parked vehicles.
He also said it is important for the Duterte administration not to commit mistakes of the past administrations such as the granting of emergency powers to the Ramos administration to address the power crisis. "Kung ano pagkakamali ng nakaraan, inaayos natin dito," he said.
Recto said he trusts that the President and his alter-egos such as Transportation Secretary Art Tugade will consider his suggestions.
The Senate minority leader also filed Resolution No. 59 on the "propriety" of emergency powers for the President.
He said that while he recognizes that the traffic situation in the country is at its worst, "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."
Sen. Franklin Drilon earlier filed a similar bill, the Transportation Crisis Act of 2016, which seeks to grant President Rodrigo Duterte emergency powers in dealing with the transportation crisis.
Drilon said that while he fully supports the passage of the bill, "it is also of the highest importance that the bill will provide safeguards that can adequately protect the system and the people from abuses."
Sen. Leila De Lima, meanwhile, said she is open to granting the President emergency powers but she wants to see first what specific powers they are requesting. De Lima said that among others, she does not want government completely doing away with the procurement process.
She however wants to see the details first before giving her full support. "As she saying goes, the devil might be in the details," she said.