Press Release
August 11, 2016

ANC Headstart with Karen Davila


Karen Davila: On Hotcopy this morning, we are privileged to have with us Senator Grace Poe, who is the chairperson of the Senate Committee on Public Services. Welcome to the show, thank you for coming Senator.

Sen. Grace Poe: Thank you again Karen for having me. Davila: Does President Duterte need emergency powers?

Poe: That's what we are trying to find out. I think that he really needs extraordinary solutions to the problems that we have now especially in traffic. But we need to be able to consult as many sectors as possible because I think the problem is really coordination with the local government as well as with the national government. But the Senate shares in the desire of the President to solve the traffic problems.

Davila: What can emergency powers give the President that will allow him to solve traffic?

Poe: Emergency powers will allow him or his appointed representative to have an easier time, let's say in the procurement process...we can speed things up instead of being bugged down by the very detailed bidding process. Number two, there are also right of way issues. Number three, the number one request also of Secretary Tugade is that the lower courts stop issuing TROs and injunctions, of course you can still go to the Supreme Court. There's also the issue of opening up certain subdivisions. And of course, creating a central traffic authority that will formulate regulations and implement it. Because Karen, EDSA alone is about 24 kilometers long. It traverses 6 LGUs which have different regulations in terms of traffic. Sometimes the MMDA cannot really impose any of their regulations in those particular areas bordered with those LGUs.

Davila: Like Makati, being one of the...

Poe: Makati is one of them.

Davila: So for example, I mean clearly you have a vision on, if President Duterte is given emergency powers these are what he would be allowed to do. Are you hoping that these powers will allow him or Secretary Tugade to make the MRT or the train purchasing faster?

Poe: Absolutely, I think that if given the emergency powers, of course they can bypass several steps of the COA, for example. I think the preferred alternative bidding or the preferred alternative procurement method of Sec. Tugade is something called the single source procurement or direct procurement. Meaning, he can choose whoever the contractor is or the supplier based on their track record and also the capitalization. There should be certain parameters and conditions. But they don't have to go through the very long bidding process that's normally required. So, that alone will speed it up because as you know, even the bidding of the DOTr will take years, sometimes a year and a half just for it to be finalized only in the end to be a failed bidding.

Davila: But what are your fears, I mean clearly you are open, you seem to be supportive of it but you are also very cautious. What are your fears of granting these powers?

Poe: Number one with the experience that we had in the MRT wherein they had a closed transaction between this company that didn't really have the capitalization or the track record. So, it is important for me to make sure that everything, the transactions are transparent. That is why I said, number one, it has to be FOI-compliant; number two, it has to be fiscally responsible because we don't want to shortchange our taxpayers. Of course we will have to be paying for this but we don't want generations to come to be saddled with the debt of this particular undertaking. Remember the last time we granted emergency powers was in 1993. This is the emergency powers for the Electric Power Crisis Act during FVR's time. And during that time, well they said that's the cause why the prices of powers are so expensive in this country until now. The stranded debts and all the hidden costs and I was trying to examine what could have been the difference because they also had oversight then. One of the proposals that we have is that there should be a Senate and Congress oversight on these emergency powers.

Davila: So, you want that?

Poe: That's right we can talk about that but they also had it then. But, what I saw and I'd like to clarify it, was that the contract that they entered into was only published and made public two weeks after it was signed.

Davila: Okay.

Poe: So, all the hidden costs are already in.

Davila: So, during the time of FVR, because we had a power crisis. The government got into a lot of what they called, the 'government-guaranteed contracts.' Are you allowing this, this time?

Poe: I don't think we should. Number one, I think the government has enough money now. I think interest rates are lower for the government, even to borrow. And I think there are more investors now in our country. So, I think we don't really need those sovereign guarantees or anything that might tie us up for decades to come.

Davila: If I were to ask you since you've done many hearings on the MRT prior to the elections. What would you want this administration to achieve if they are given emergency powers, be specific? How would you want EDSA to look? I mean, if you were to visualize a change what would it be?

Poe: Visualize?

Davila: Yeah, I'm curious. That's doable ha.

Poe: It's doable. Of course, we would like to have like 'freely flowing' traffic in EDSA like--

Davila: --but how?

Poe: --to ease travel.

Davila: --Would you like to see more roads? Or to see more trains?

Poe: Absolutely we need more trains. We need more trains...

Davila: --that's one.

Poe: That's probably a short-term solution. But, we also need certain elevated walkways. Like if you go to Bangkok and you see those walkways where people can freely walk from one building to another comfortably. And I think that we can get businessmen to invest in this- specifically because if you pass certain malls, it will bring in traffic to your area. As I said 24 kilometers long. So, if you're coming from point to point, people now are conscious about their health and would rather just walk or even have a bike paths somewhere in EDSA. Why not? There are people now who go to work, like Gary Valenciano apparently ride bike from Rockwell all the way from Antipolo at night.

On emergency powers limitation

Davila: Or Kim Atienza takes a scooter from Manila to ABS-CBN but inhales all the pollution. But, on a more serious note, what would the congressional oversight committee do in these emergency powers situation? If you are in that oversight committee, what would it do?

Poe: Well, as I said the conditions that we have. First, it has to be FOI compliant. It has to be fiscally responsible but we can put also certain conditions like there will be an oversight committee composed of some members from the House and some members from the Senate to make sure all the deliverables are complied with. And then, we should also insist that, okay, you can have probably direct source of procurement but there should be the track record of the supplier. They should be capitalized. There should not be any conflict of interest, meaning no incorporator is related to anybody from the DOTr, things like that. We can have those conditions as part of granting the emergency powers.

Davila: Do you trust this government more to get into negotiated contracts than the past government?

Poe: I think that I will only trust what provisions we will have in the emergency powers. It doesn't matter which administration is there. It has to be clear. You know, emergency powers is granted to the President by Congress but it's timebound. I mean, it's only in a certain period and Congress can actually withdraw this anytime.

Davila: Anytime?

Poe: Anytime. If the restrictions or the limitations are actually not--

Davila: -- met with.

Poe: You know, Secretary Tugade is right by saying you should not fear this. We should not fear this if the provisions are laid out properly.

On timetable

Davila: How many years is a good timetable for you?

Poe: You mean for the traffic?

Davila: Yeah.

Poe: It's not just a simple signing of contracts. We actually have to build these infrastructure everywhere. I think I am not overly generous by saying that perhaps three years in the term of the 17th congress.

Davila: Wow, you're generous!

Poe: I am just probably in a little realistic...

Davila: ...and supportive I would say. Do you think that's too strong word?

Poe: I am supportive, as I said we are supportive but we are not abdicating our role in also checking on the executive. As I said Karen, that it is really important. We have to tread the fine line between being supportive and being permissive and being cautious and being an obstructionist. That is why there are three branches of government and not just one. So that we can support each other but we can also police each other. So I've always been cooperative Karen. Even in my work in the Senate, I feel that it should not be about the political agenda. Ronald Reagan actually said something like "so many things can be achieved if people didn't mind other's taking the credit for it". I mean, you know, I would like to see this administration succeed but I am not going to give up on my role to make sure that they actually do it according to the processes that are laid out by the law.

On TRO and Injunctions

Davila: All right, before we go to a quick break, this is one of the complaints even on the past administration; President Aquino in many of his speeches after the Supreme Court ruling, the Court of Appeals' case, with the DOTC, said that the courts in effect have, to some point already, it can slow down or affect government projects, government planning and with emergency powers what would happen, you have mentioned, is... explain this part will the local courts lose power in other words in granting a TRO.

Poe: You see Karen, I am not a lawyer. That is why we are having all of these hearings because we would like to hear constitutionalists also and other lawyers explain how emergency powers can prevent them from issuing TROs and injunctions. I think this is what really slows down, even in the bidding. Sabi nga ni Sec.Tugade pag may nanalo ng bidding papalakpak, only for it to be challenged the next day and then TRO to be issued. I think it is important for the President also to call stakeholders together and to talk to them. During the time of the last administration unfortunately they didn't have the LEDAC or the JELAC. The judiciary meeting also with the executives to be in line with all of the national policies or programs that the government would like. And I think if you talk to the judiciary also on an informal basis on certain parameters that they would like to see. I think that even during the time of President Aquino so many laws were vetoed, I think more than 30. Can you imagine the wasted time of Congress coming up with defending those measures only for it to be vetoed. So there really needs to be good communication between the three branches of government.

Davila: Now, with this committee, oversight committee would you want members of the judiciary to sit there.

Poe: Well, that could be certainly discussed, again Karen I think we need experts to be able to explain the implication of this or if its even proper to do that.


Davila: Okay. You said one rule, there should be no government guaranteed contracts, it should be transparent, it should be FOI-compliant, before we go to a break where should we go with the FOI. I mean this is a bill that you offered. It had passed the Senate, you have President Duterte already issuing EO but then again, I mean it's not yet a law as of this point. Where would you see this go?

Poe: We'll I'm hoping that this will pass by next year. And I think now with President signing the Executive Order at least for the executive branch, I don't see any reason why others would doubt if the President is for it or not.

Davila: You don't consider the right to reply; which was discussed in the campaign a condition for the FOI.

Poe: No, I think that it would dilute the FOI. If there are others who are really passionate about a right to reply law they should file it separately.

Davila: Okay, alright we are going to a quick break. The second half of Hotcopy with Senator Grace Poe. Please stay with us.

Davila: We still have with us Senator Grace Poe, who is the chairperson of the Senate Committee on Public Services and just continuing from the thought where we left off, on essentially the emergency powers being granted or that might be granted to President Duterte. If I'm right, I am not sure at this point but FVR was granted emergency powers for a few days or possibly a few months. Why would President Duterte some skeptics may think, three years is such a long time, why three years?

Poe: First of all, in the bills that were submitted to us, the provisions were either two to three years. Now, I think that we should only fear it if Congress does not have the power to withdraw such emergency powers. And I think for as long as they're complying with the restrictions and the provisions that we set forth, the bidding or the procurement process is above board, they're delivering on schedule. If they need those emergency powers to be able to acquire right of way, properties, or to be able to facilitate faster relations with the local government units, why not? Again, there's that particular provision where Congress can take it back anytime if we feel that it's not needed anymore.

Davila: Alright, last words when it comes to emergency powers, when do you see this pushing through or when do you see Congress granting this.

Poe: The bottleneck won't be in the Senate. Because we will do our work, we will conduct as many hearings frequently as possible.

Davila: But it is August now, do you have a timetable.

Poe: We are looking, hopefully, before we adjourn in December. But Karen the DOTr hasn't even provided us with specific plans yet. And they've only been there by 30 something days... they haven't even identified the specific roads, how many kilometers of trains they have to be able to give us all of these specifics before we can actually deliberate on the extent of the emergency powers.

Davila: So in effect, before we go, is you hopefully want to grant President Duterte emergency powers before December but you are expecting the Department of Transportation to submit their detailed plans on what they want the emergency powers for.

Poe: Yes, a reasonably detailed plan. Of course you cannot foresee everything and we will give them enough elbow-room but we will not give them a blank check.

Davila: Alright on that note, thank you so much, Senator Grace Poe.

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