Special powers for Duterte: LP senators want safeguards

Camille Elemia

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Special powers for Duterte: LP senators want safeguards
Senate President Pro-Tempore Franklin Drilon and Minority Leader Ralph Recto urge Congress to learn from the past, when it granted special powers to President Fidel Ramos to solve the energy crisis

MANILA, Philippines – Three senators from the Liberal Party urged Congress to strengthen defenses against possible abuses involving the measure granting emergency powers to President Rodrigo Duterte to address the traffic crisis in Metro Manila.

Senate President Pro-Tempore Franklin Drilon on Wednesday, July 27, highlighted the need to provide safeguards to protect “the system and the people from abuses.”

Drilon, who authored Senate Bill 11 or the Transportation Crisis Act of 2016, said the final version must ensure that “the most advantageous price for the government is obtained.”

“We must make sure that these powers will not be misemployed and exploit our people, rather than help them,” he said.

Drilon and Senate Minority Leader Ralph Recto said that Congress should learn from the past, when it granted emergency powers to former President Fidel Ramos to address the electric power crisis then.

“We must learn from the experiences with the Electric Power Crisis Act of 1993, which was crafted to address the power crisis, but, in the end, resulted in the execution of onerous contracts with independent power producers that led to expensive and higher electricity rates,” Drilon said.

“We must avoid making the same mistakes all over again,” Drilon added.

Senator Leila De Lima said she is “open” to supporting the measure, as long as it would not be against public interest.

“I’m open to the grant of emergency powers to the President, subject to close scrutiny of the details of their proposal. As the saying goes, the devil might be in the details,” she said.

While she acknowledged the need to immediately address the worsening traffic problem – “maganda ‘yung plano” (it’s a good plan) – De Lima said she would scrutinize the measure to ensure strong safeguards against abuses.

‘Common sense’ conditions

Recto filed on Tuesday, July 26, Senate Resolution Number 59, seeking an inquiry into the granting of special powers to the President.

He said he only wants to know what specific powers the executive needs and wants.

“Number one, I am not against it, but I filed a resolution to know what emergency powers they need and want. Let’s get it from them: What do you really want?”

The senator said all programs and projects, especially contracts, must follow the tenets of freedom of information, for which Duterte himself issued an executive order.

The “affordability” of projects for Filipino users or commuters should be the primary consideration, he said.

Projects, Recto added, should be approved by the National Economic Development Authority board, which is chaired by Duterte himself.

The implementing agency should post on its website the approved starting fare or user fee in a project, as well as the “approved parametric formula” on fare adjustments. 

Recto also urged the government to implement traffic rules “without fear or favor,” adding that road obstructions must be cleared and that roads should not end up as parking spaces or makeshift terminal for public utility vehicles.

“These are common sense conditions, am just saying if we were to have a law on emergency powers for traffic palagay ko dapat maisama ito. These are really not conditions,” he said. 

In his first State of the Nation Address on Monday, President Duterte said Metro Manila will be “immediately” cleared of colorum vehicles and illegal terminals. – Rappler.com

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Camille Elemia

Camille Elemia is a former multimedia reporter for Rappler. She covered media and disinformation, the Senate, the Office of the President, and politics.