Emergency powers for the President?

A problem that everyone could see coming evolves into a serious situation, which then becomes a potential disaster. In desperation, there are suddenly calls for “emergency powers” be given to the president of the Philippines, as if the solution can only be implemented through some sort of divine rule.

We heard all of these before, when there was the potential of an electricity shortage. Now, we are hearing it again with regard to the traffic situation in both Metro Manila and Metro Cebu. We are also noticing the same kind of talk about the criminal gangs operating in Mindanao.

Let’s step back a moment. The Philippine government will spend over P3 trillion this year to conceptualize and operate programs dealing with such matters as national and domestic defense, public health, transportation and providing safety nets for the poorest among us. We do not ask the government to discover the “meaning of life,” invent a new rice cooker, or provide a method to keep the housecat from scratching the furniture.

All we want are basic services and security that are better provided by the collective government, rather than by the private sector.

So the Legislative branch of government is considering giving “emergency powers” to, at the least, one man; at the most to the Executive branch. What the House and the Senate should be saying is, “We are complete failures and need to be rescued by the ‘Magician of Malacañang.’”

The Management Association of the Philippines (MAP) said in a statement, “There must be an issuance of an executive order to…secure emergency powers for the President to address the crisis by mobilizing all government resources and undertaking necessary measures unhampered by appointment, procurement, budgetary and Commission on Audit regulations during its presidency.”

Wait a minute. Isn’t it the Legislative branch that wrote laws on “appointment, procurement, budgetary and Commission on Audit regulations”?

Using the election Statement of Contributions and Expenditures as an example, Congress wrote detailed and specific procedures and rules on virtually all aspects of political campaigns. If there is a problem, as MAP details, why hasn’t the legislature done something before this? If it is better to leave specifics in the hands of the government agencies, then why hasn’t Congress passed laws that give those agencies specific time and performance mandates to get their job done effectively?

But no, it is easier just to pass the responsibility and power to the Office of the President, which may not be a bad idea. “We cannot solve our problems with the same thinking we used when we created them,” Albert Einstein said.

Party-list Rep. Lito Atienza of Buhay is not agreeable to this solution saying, “Simple enforcement of laws and removing corruption in transportation and traffic management can solve the problem.” Fair enough. Then let’s start by filing criminal charges against all those who did not enforce the laws and who might have been involved in the corruption Atienza speaks of. And we should also make these crimes nonbailable.



Image Credits: Jimbo Albano

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