Poe eyes Senate approval of traffic emergency powers bill by Dec

Camille Elemia
Poe eyes Senate approval of traffic emergency powers bill by Dec
The Senate version of the bill is sure to include a central traffic authority and an oversight function for Congress to review contracts

MANILA, Philippines – The Senate bill granting emergency powers to President Rodrigo Duterte to ease the traffic crisis would likely be approved before the year ends.

Senator Grace Poe, chairperson of the public services committee, said this on Wednesday, October 12, during the final hearing on the measure.

“Sana. So, ‘di ba mayroon tayong break. Tapos, November, papasok. So titingnan natin kung mauumpisahan na iyong debate sa plenaryo. Sa tingin ko naman,” Poe told reporters in an interview after the hearing.

(I hope so. There’s a Senate break but sessions resume by November so let’s see if we can start debates in the plenary by then. I think it’s possible.)

Poe said she has so far not heard of any senator who is keen on opposing the administration-backed bill. The debates, she said, would most likely center on the specific provisions.

“Sa tingin ko naman, hindi lamang ako, pati ‘yung ating mga kasamahan sa Senado, marami namang naniniwala na mayroon talagang balakid sa pagpapaimplementa ng ibang proyekto,” she said.

(I think, not just me, but my colleagues in the Senate believe there are really barriers to the implementation of projects.)

“Wala naman akong nakausap na senador na kontra dito. In principle. Pero siguro magkakaroon ng kaunting debate sa mga probisyon,” she added.

(I have not talked to any senator who is against the emergency powers. In principle. But I think there would be a few debates on the provisions.)

Poe’s committee is also in the process of crafting the panel report which she would likely sponsor before December.

“Ang committee report ay inuumpisahan na natin so hindi po ito nagpapabagal, nagpapadagdag lang po ito ng maaring maging solution na epektibo para sa ating mga kababayan,” she said during the hearing.

(The committee report is being drafted so we are not delaying this. This is contributing to the effective solutions for our fellowmen.)

During the hearing, Minority Leader Ralph Recto expressed doubts on the “unfunded, scattered” projects of the Department of Transportation (DOTr) to solve traffic.

As for the House of Representatives, the bill is still in the early stages of discussion.

Oversight function

So far, Poe said the bill would definitely include the provision creating a central traffic authority to supervise the implementation of emergency powers.

In the first hearing, Poe and other senators suggested that Transportation Secretary Arthur Tugade be appointed as the traffic czar. (READ: Senators want traffic czar as ‘point person’ for emergency powers)

“Sigurado na magkakaroon ng central traffic agency. Sa tingin ko, isa iyan na magiging malinaw,” she said.

(We are sure that there will be a central traffic agency. I think that’s one of the clear things.)

Aside from this, Poe said the Senate version would include the oversight function of Congress to ensure proper enactment of the measure.

Congress, she said, should be given the power to review contracts before approval.

If, however, both chambers fail to submit their comments within two weeks, the contract will be deemed valid and effective.

“Nabanggit ko rin dapat ‘yung mga kontrata ma-review natin bago pa lang pirmahan. Kasi ‘pag napirmahan na iyan ang pangit naman biglang aatras tayo. Mali rin ‘yun. Hindi rin ‘yun maganda sa mga mamumuhunan sa ating bansa na tayo ay umaatras sa ating kasunduan,” she said.

(I also mentioned that contracts should be reviewed before they are signed. Because once it is signed, it’s not good if we suddenly withdraw. That’s not good. It’s bad for investors if the government changes its mind on agreements.)

Poe said this is to ensure that all government contracts would comply with their pre-set standards – compliant with the Freedom of Information measure, fiscally responsible, and practical.

“‘Yun ang gusto kong ilagay sa oversight provision. Na kapag mayroon kaming compelling reason na ibig sabihin masusuway ang tatlong kategorya na aming sinasaad… Kung ‘yung isa doon sa tatlong iyon ay malinaw na hindi talaga gagana maaari nating ipatigil ang implementasyon nito,” she said.

(We should have an oversight provision that when there is a compelling reason, such as violation of the 3 categories we stated earlier… If one of those 3 would not be followed, the implementation should be stopped.) – Rappler.com

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Camille Elemia

Camille Elemia is Rappler's lead reporter for media, disinformation issues, and democracy. She won an ILO award in 2017. She received the prestigious Fulbright-Hubert Humphrey fellowship in 2019, allowing her to further study media and politics in the US. Email camille.elemia@rappler.com