DOTr projects delayed by courts, Transpo chief says

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FILE PHOTO. The government has set up several projects to help ease traffic congestion in Metro Manila but many of them are still pending due to delayed court proceedings, transport officials said Tuesday.

Metro Manila (CNN Philippines, September 10) — The government has set up several projects to help ease traffic congestion in Metro Manila but many of them are still pending due to delayed court proceedings, transport officials said Tuesday.

Meron kaming problema kung saan bagamat merong mga ruling na kailangan pumunta ka sa Korte Suprema, naantala ang aming proyekto dahil sa mga kaganapan sa mga husgado,” said Transportation Secretary Arthur Tugade.

[Translation: We have problems wherein we are required to go to the Supreme Court to attend rulings, in effect, our projects are stalled because of what happens in the courts.]

In a Senate panel hearing, Tugade reiterated the call for the granting of emergency powers to the President to fast-track their projects. Granting emergency powers would mean the President can exhaust all resources and police powers on projects.

Department of Transportation officials told Senators the construction of the MRT-7 has been halted due to added court hearings in obtaining a writ of possession or a document needed to recover the land. A Bulacan court allegedly required the agency to pay a higher deposit than stipulated by the Bureau of Internal Revenue and scheduled further hearings to secure the document when it could have been settled within seven days, they added.

However, according to Supreme Court Circular No. 232-2015, no further hearings are required to determine the value of the land apart from the value already given by the BIR.

Tama po may batas tayo na bawal na ang mga injunction, may batas na ay dapat magbigay kaagad ng writ of possession… May mga pamamaraan na naantala kasi may hearing pa po na ginagawa na hindi po dapat kailangan gawin, sa aming pananaw,” said Giovanni Lopez, Assistant Secretary for Procurement.

[Translation: That is true, we have laws that say injunctions are no longer allowed and writ of possessions should be given right away... There are some efforts that have been hindered because of hearings that we believe were unnecessary.]

The case is currently pending at the Court of the Appeals.

But Senate Committee on Public Services Chair Grace Poe was unconvinced about the need for emergency powers just for the agency to accomplish its tasks.

“'Wag naman nating sisihin na kaya hindi niyo nagagawa 'yung trabaho niyo dahil wala kayo niyan (emergency powers),” Poe said.

[Translation: Do not blame the fact that there were no emergency powers used that you were not able to do it.]

Tugade defended himself, saying the emergency powers would have only helped them complete more projects. He maintained that they are still able to do their tasks without them.

Wala kaming sinasabi na wala kaming nagawa kasi wala ‘yung emergency powers… Ang sinasabi ko.. mas marami sana kaming nagawa kung mayroong emergency powers,” argued Tugade.

[Translation: We are not saying that we have not done anything because there were no emergency powers. We are saying we could have done more if the emergency powers were granted.]

Transportation officials added that they also plan to cancel the franchises of some city buses to ease traffic congestion. However, they are daunted by the "threat" of more court injunctions.

This is due to the recent injunction issued on the Metro Manila Development Authority and the Land Transportation Franchising and Regulatory Board orders to revoke the business permits of provincial bus terminals and to prohibit their buses from passing EDSA.

LTFRB Chairman Martin Delgra said they have asked the Office of the Solicitor General, which is representing them on the case, to expedite the resolution on their motion for reconsideration against the injunction.

Meanwhile, Law Professor Gwen De Vera proposed that judges of regional courts undergo training on how to deal with cases involving government projects.

Senate Minority Leader Franklin Drilon agreed.

“It is not unusual your suggestion that maybe the executive branch of the pertinent office should sit down with the court administrators to tell them ‘What are you judges doing?’,” said Drilon.

Traffic masterplan

Senator Ralph Recto also expressed doubts on the effectiveness of granting emergency powers. He asked transport officials if they have a “masterplan” to solve traffic in the region.

Transport Analyst Rene Santiago said there was a plan that he along with other officials and engineers were able to craft years ago. However, he noted that the agency lacks the technical expertise to put the plan into action.

MMDA Chairman Danilo Lim said they have identified 300 chokepoints in Metro Manila, which all need their own management plan.

This further convinced Recto that granting emergency powers will do no good to the traffic situation.

“That is the danger of giving emergency powers, 'yung walang plano [the lack of a plan],” he said.