House drops bill granting Duterte emergency powers vs traffic

Mara Cepeda
House drops bill granting Duterte emergency powers vs traffic
'The President said he doesn't want it anymore and you cannot attack a crisis with emergency powers when you're in the middle of it already,' says Speaker Alan Peter Cayetano

MANILA, Philippines – The House of Representatives is no longer prioritizing the bill that would give President Rodrigo Duterte emergency powers to deal with the perennial traffic problem. 

Speaker Alan Peter Cayetano said on Monday, November 4, that the lower chamber dropped the measure in its priority list after Duterte himself gave up on the proposal. 

“Not anymore, because the President said he doesn’t want it anymore and you cannot attack a crisis with emergency powers when you’re in the middle of it already,” Cayetano told ANC Headstart host Karen Davila, who asked if the House would still prioritize giving Duterte emergency powers to address traffic. 

The Speaker said the House would instead use its oversight functions to scrutinize the plans of the Department of Transportation (DOTr) to ease road congestion through regular hearings to be conducted by the House committee on transportation. 

“We will push for the mass transportation, and we will not only pass legislation. If needed, [we] will use our oversight powers. There’s no reason that right of way should be a problem,” said Cayetano.

“Basically, aalalayan namin sila… We’ll have constant hearings so pag sinabi nila ngayon, ‘Sandali, sir, 3 months delayed kasi kinukwestiyon ng city council yong ganito,’ so we’ll step in and talk to the councilor, call them to the hearing,” added the Taguig City-Pateros congressman. 

(Basically, we will guide them… We’ll have constant hearings so when they would say, ‘Hold on, sir, the project is 3 months delayed because the city council is questioning it,’ so we’ll step in and talk to the councilors, call them to the hearing.)

Duterte had previously asked Congress in 2016 to grant him emergency powers to solve traffic, but he no longer mentioned this proposal in his 4th State of the Nation Address in July.  

On September 11, the President said he would no longer ask Congress for emergency powers due to lack of time. The DOTr itself also withdrew its request to be given emergency powers on behalf of Duterte, with Assistant Secretary Goddes Libiran saying “there isn’t enough time anymore.”

The previous 17th Congress, under the speakership of Gloria Macapagal Arroyo, passed the bill that would grant emergency powers to the DOTr chief to become traffic czar in December 2018. But the measure did not fly in the Senate. The DOTr didnt submit the comprehensive plan that Senate committee on public services chairperson Grace Poe had been asking for. 

Only one bill seeking to grant emergency powers to the President himself was filed in the current 18th Congress. The measure remains pending in the committee level. –

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Mara Cepeda

Mara Cepeda specializes in stories about politics and local governance. She covers the Office of the Vice President, the Senate, and the Philippine opposition. She is a 2021 fellow of the Asia Journalism Fellowship and the Reham al-Farra Memorial Journalism Fellowship of the UN. Got tips? Email her at or tweet @maracepeda.