Press Release
August 10, 2016

Committee Hearing on Emergency Powers

Magandang umaga sa lahat ng naririto at maraming salamat na nakarating kayo sa pagdinig ngayong araw.

In fact, the people in this room can be divided into two groups: those who came in early and those who were "na-traffic." I must thank our resource persons who are here--complete and on time and also our senators.

If the latter is slowly becoming the acceptable national excuse -ang pambansang dahilan -for tardiness, it is because in many cases there's basis in invoking it.

We don't need statistics to prove how traffic has gone from bad to worse in Mega Manila and other parts of the country. Cars move in glacial pace. If you're lucky to hit 30 kilometers per hour in EDSA, then you're lucky.

The only hope for fast mode of travel - the trains - have been derailed by old equipment or the lack of it, poor maintenance , and the culprit that slows train service--bureaucratic inertia .

People, including kids who should still be asleep, now wake up before dawn to catch an MRT train that can still accommodate passengers only to realize that the time to queue for a ticket is now longer than the train ride itself.

And they who rise before sunrise have to go through a harrowing commute just so they can be home by midnight.

Nakikipagsiksikan sa bus, hinahabol ang taxi, kakandong sa UV, bibitin sa estribo ng jeep, kokontrata ng pedicab, o manghuhuli ng Grab or Uber na tila mailap na Pokemon sila.

The sad reality is that for many, the time spent for rest is less than the time spent on the road.

They also say that it is now faster to fly across the ocean than to drive across town. But not anymore because there is also congestion in the air. Pati sa ere may traffic din.

As anyone who had recently taken a flight out of NAIA would tell you, the time spent by a plane queuing for take-off is sometimes longer than the actual flight itself.

Simply put, our mandate is to create a system which transports our people and their products, the nation's commuters as well as its commerce, in a manner that is safe, reliable, accessible and affordable.

As you know, the services enumerated in our committee's mandate happens to be this government's priority .

And the pressure for them to deliver is great but the burden is not theirs alone but ours too because we serve the same people who gifted us with the same mandate to serve.

Thus, let me assure our friends in the executive that we will not be competing with you in finding problems, we will be cooperating with you in finding solutions.

In capsule form--extraordinary problems require extraordinary powers to solve. The rule on such request for great powers has always been: The President proposes. Congress disposes.

We will soon wade into the details of the bills, and carefully study its provisions, with no other motive but to improve it. We must be open to innovative solutions and be ready to think out of the box. But though we are open to innovation, we must also be responsible with our actions.

Giving the president emergency powers necessarily raises concerns about concentration of powers in one person as this could easily be abused. There are fears that if we grant emergency powers for this issue, then we open the floodgates to granting emergency powers for other so-called "crisis" or "emergencies".

We must therefore, pose important questions on the extent of those powers. For instance, we must have clear cut parameters as what constitutes as an emergency.

Second, we must be clear on what those emergency powers will be used for and whether they can effectively address the problems. It is important for us to define and quantify the objectives of the bills.

Let me share with you the principles I will apply in evaluating your request for emergency powers.

First, it must be FOI-compliant. This is one non-negotiable principle, constant in its implementation. It must permeate and penetrate all activities, contracts, projects, biddings, documents, awards, payments made pursuant to the act of granting emergency powers. Letting the sunlight in construction results in better-built infrastructure.

Second, it must be fiscally responsible.

The power to expedite projects is not a license to contract an expensive one.

We may allow you to take shortcuts for as long as they do not short change the taxpayers. There must be no hidden costs, or undeclared conditional debts that will be passed on to several generations.

Third, it must have details and deadlines.

We will not go for vague powers, or blank checks. Hindi pwede ang bahala na kami. Everything must be well-defined. The parameters must be set. I assure you there will be elbow room and wide latitude given but not wide enough for thieves to sneak in.

We will also insist on deadlines. It is not enough that you will tell us that you will build a tunnel. We will require you to tell us the exact date we will see the light at the end of it.

I think the most important is that we will only give you a set of powers on the condition that you will first give us the bill of particulars. The powers must be in pursuit of clearly-identified results.

What are the exact deliverables, the cost of each, and when will it be finished? Specifically, the location of projects, the price tag of each and deadline of completion.

We will also be inquiring on projects that may need no powers of the emergency kind to implement.

Kapag may obstruction sa kalsada, hindi emergency powers ang kailangan pero tow truck.

Kapag may nakabarang iligal na terminal sa kanto, hindi emergency powers ang kailangan kundi pulis.

Kapag ang isang lugar ay madaling bahain na nagbubuhol tuloy ang trapik umambon lang, hindi emergency powers ang kailangan, pero mga taong maglilinis ng kanal at estero.

So what we will request you is to tell us the things you plan to do, and tell us which of them would require emergency powers.

You and I agree that not all challenges entail the bestowal of special powers to solve them.

Today, we have asked the Secretary of the Department of Transportation to give us an overview of the state of our land and air transport system. We have asked the pertinent agencies under the department to make a brief presentation, limiting it to their top three concerns and top three projects or plans of action.

We have asked the Chair of the MMDA to do the same.

This will give the members of our committees an idea on the "lay of the land" so to speak. Initially, this meeting was supposed to be an organizational meeting and briefing for the Committee on Public Services. However, we realize that the members of the other committees that must tackle the proposal to grant emergency powers to the President to solve the transportation crisis, would also benefit from this briefing. We all need to fully understand the problems, before tackling the details of the proposed solutions.

If the problems can be clearly and specifically identified, then hopefully the powers to be granted shall likewise be specific, clear & time bound.

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