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Two senators at odds over ‘emergency powers’

Neophyte Senator Francis Tolentino is proposing to revive a scheme to give President Rodrigo Duterte emergency powers for two years to solve traffic congestion in the national capital region—a proposal an old-timer senator immediately shot down.

Under Tolentino’s Senate Bill 213, also known as the Special Emergency Powers Act, “the President is granted emergency powers to employ the necessary government resources, exercise or employ executive actions  and measures...unhampered by existing laws, regulations and procedures to solve  this escalating problem, and to adopt short term, mid-term and long-term development plans for a sustainable and efficient transport system.” 

Tolentino noted the traffic gridlock could be considered a national emergency due to its adverse effects on the economy.

He referred to a study by Japan International Cooperation Agency which said the government incurred daily losses of P3.5 billion due to the monstrous traffic.

“The traffic congestion crisis must be considered a national emergency due to its detrimental effects to life, economy, and productivity,” said Tolentino, a former chairman of the Metro Manila Development Authority. 

Because of this, the proposed bill recommends that national emergency be declared in Metro Manila, Metro Cebu and other cities and give President Duterte emergency powers to resolve this problem.

But Senator Ralph Recto said Mayor Isko Moreno of Manila was the glowing “Exhibit A” of the reality that many of the country’s problems could be solved without having to rewrite the Constitution.

A change of plans, vision and management style would do wonders and spark change immediately, rather than the untested benefits that Charter change promises to bring.

It seems that more progress can be wrought by seriously implementing whatever existing laws there are than in rewriting the basic law of the land later, Recto said.

“No change in the Constitution would resolve flooding, traffic, crimes, and trash,”  Recto added. 

“Having said that, I, however, recognize the right and welcome the move of proponents of constitutional amendments to bring their proposals for debate in a manner that is exhaustive, not expedient; thorough, not truncated.”

The Senate leader stressed that any idea that is presented before Congress must win by the force of its arguments and not by the mere number of people supporting it.

He said Charter change must not be part of the government’s railroad program.

Tolentino’s bill provides for the appointment of a traffic czar who is the transportation secretary. 

He will have to adopt a measure that will rationalize the use of road and transport routes efficiently, adjusting the working hours of government schools and offices. 

It may also implement a work at home scheme and other alternative arrangements, according to the bill.

Topics: Francis Tolentino , Rodrigo Duterte , Special Emergency Powers Act , Japan International Cooperation Agency
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