Senator Grace Poe

MANILA -- Standing pat on her position, Senator Grace Poe on Friday stressed that she is not against the granting of emergency powers that are backed by a well-studied master plan.

“Let me stress that I am not against emergency powers. In fact, granting it does not solely rely on me. I am just one vote in the Senate. Like my colleagues, I have to be convinced why it is needed,” Poe said in a statement.

“I am for anything that will solve traffic. We are all victims of this. I am for it if it is guaranteed that they have a plan. For you to give something as immense as the emergency powers, you have to be sniper accurate, it cannot be a shotgun approach,” she added.

Poe said even without emergency powers, there are already laws and policies to speed up government projects to alleviate the woes of the Filipino commuters and motorists.

She noted that Republic Act 9184 already gives the government alternative modes of procurement and limits the period to just three to six months, plus President Rodrigo Duterte’s own Executive Order 34, which allows agencies to directly avail of alternative procurement modes such as direct contracting, repeat order, or negotiated procurement without having to get an exemption from the Government Procurement Policy Board.

As for the right-of-way (ROW) acquisition, the senator said Republic Act 10752 has a clear expedited procedure that sets the negotiated sale for just 30 days, and if that fails, the expropriation case soon after for which Writ of Possession must be issued after seven days from deposit.

“They cannot be hiding behind court delays because the Supreme Court already reiterated its marching orders in OCA (Office of the Court Administrator),” Poe said.

Under OCA Circular 113-2019, it is ministerial upon the court to issue the Writ of Possession within seven days from the deposit of 100 percent of the zonal valuation according to the Bureau of Internal Revenue, and the judge cannot order further hearings on the property value.

She also cited Republic Act 8795, which prohibits lower courts from issuing a temporary restraining order or injunction on government ROW/procurement projects.

Poe said even without emergency powers, “a lot can still be done” to improve the mass transport system.

“DOTr (Department of Transportation), if it wants to, can very much function without more powers. The purchase of multi-million critical spare parts for the MRT (Metro Rail Transit) via direct contracting and negotiated procurement proves that procurement is possible in urgent cases even without emergency powers,” she said.

“In fact, they have engaged in several emergency procurements for the MRT without going through a bidding process,” she added.

Poe said the coordination among transportation agencies, the Metropolitan Manila Development Authority (MMDA), local government units and concerned stakeholders should be on a regular basis to update one another about their plans and progress in mitigating the traffic problem.

“While we look for quick fixes, let us not lose sight of the fact that still, the best way to decongest our roads is to have a mass transport system that will encourage people to leave their cars at home. That's why we said we need to see the master plan,” she said.

“It is not the lack of powers, but the lack of a master plan and more aggressive action from the DOTr that bears emphasizing. We can give all the powers they want but if they have no master plan, they will just end up wasting money or, worse, still not being able to achieve anything,” she added.

On the other hand, Transportation Secretary Arthur Tugade denied Poe’s accusation of lack of a master plan on the use of emergency powers to solve traffic woes in Metro Manila.

In a television interview, Tugade enumerated the agency's plans on how to use the granting of emergency powers to President Rodrigo R. Duterte.

The plans include a transportation infrastructure plan made by the Japan International Cooperation Agency (JICA), a plan submitted to and reviewed by the National Economic Development Authority (NEDA), and a 30-year roadmap filed as legislation.

Kung sa plano lang ho, meron ho. Eh hindi 'ho kami binibigyan ng pagkakataon (If it’s just planning, we have those. But we were not given a chance),” Tugade said.

Due to the delay in the granting of emergency powers, which the DOTr has been asking for since the beginning of Duterte’s term, Tugade said they would no longer ask for it as they have “more important other things to do than talk and talk and talk.” (PNA)