Poe: Emergency powers must be FOI-compliant

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Sen. Grace Poe, who chairs the Committee on Public Services, says giving emergency powers to the President may also raise concerns on "concentration of powers" because these can "easily be abused."

Metro Manila (CNN Philippines) — Sen. Grace Poe is all for easing the worsening traffic condition in Metro Manila – but granting emergency powers to President Rodrigo Duterte will require compliance with the Executive Order on the Freedom of Information (FOI).

In her opening statement Wednesday at the joint hearing of the Committees on Public Services, Constitutional Amendments, and Finance, Poe said abiding by the FOI order is a "non-negotiable principle," as giving emergency powers to the President may raise concerns on "concentration of powers" because these can "easily be abused."

"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," Poe said.

The senator also wants all expenses to be disclosed, and deadlines followed.

"We will not go for vague powers, or blank checks. Hindi pwede ang bahala na kami.  Everything must be well-defined," she said. "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."

Also read: Metro Manila traffic to improve in next 100 days – Palace

Poe added the Senate will be vigilant on projects that do not need emergency powers to be implemented. She urged the agencies involved – particularly the Department of Transportation (DOTr) and the Metropolitan Manila Development Authority (MMDA) – to submit a plan which details all the areas of concern that need emergency powers.

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

[Translation: "If there is a road obstruction, a tow truck is needed and not emergency powers. If there is an illegal terminal that blocks streets, the police are needed and not emergency powers. If the problems can be clearly and specifically identified, then hopefully the powers to be granted shall likewise be specific, clear, and time bound."]

For his part, DOTr Sec. Art Tugade said timelines and deadlines will be duly submitted, "in a spirit of accountability and transparency."

"I give you my word, during my watch, and as I sit here, and I discharge my duties as secretary, whatever we do, not only in relation to special powers or emergency powers, we shall be FOI compliant," Tugade said. "We shall be open and transparent when it comes to costs."

Also read: Freight line between Manila and Laguna proposed