Emergency powers for Pnoy junked

 Belmonte, other solons see no need

Speaker Feliciano Belmonte Jr. and several House leaders on Saturday rejected a proposal to grant President Benigno Aquino III emergency powers to solve two of the country’s problems: rising cost of electricity and lack of mass transit in Metro Manila.

Congress would only grant such power if and when the President would ask for it, Belmonted said.

“I would not give any such power unless the President is asking for it,” Belmonte told the MST Sunday in response to Rep. Ben Evardone’s proposal for Congress to study the possibility of granting Aquino an emergency power “to deal with two ‘catastrophic problems.’ Evardone was referring to the rising electricity cost and lack of mass transport in Metro Manila and neighboring areas.

“In which case, it would still need studying,” Belmonte said.

In making the proposal, Evardone said “the emergency powers shall, however, provide safety nets to ensure transparency and accountability.

“The emergency powers should be limited in scope to cover only projects in the power and transport sectors. It should also have a limited time frame, say one year,” the Samar lawmaker said.

But administration allies also pooh-poohed Evardone’s idea for an emergency power for Aquino.

In separate interviews, with the MST Sunday, Cavite Rep. Elpidio Barzaga, Jr., AKO-Bicol party-list Rep. Rodel Batocabe, both administration allies; and opposition Reps. Rodolfo Albano III and ABAKADA party-list Rep. Jonathan dela Cruz said that that Evardone’s proposal was baseless.

“I personally think that the prevailing circumstances do not warrant the exercise of emergency powers by the President,” Barzaga said, noting that “all the systems are in placed to address the present problems.”

Barzaga warned that arbitrary exercise of emergency powers would not do any good for the country and would only discourage business investors to the country.

Batocabe said there was “no extra ordinary circumstances” to warrant such powers.

Albano, member of the House opposition bloc, said that President Aquino does not need any special powers to address the country’s pressing problems.

“He is so popular and people support him. He does not need an emergency power,” Albano said.

Dela Cruz of the House Independent Bloc of Leyte Rep. Ferdinand Martin Romualdez, said there is no compelling reason for grant of emergency powers to Aquino.

“Why would he need that power? He (Aquino) has enough powers to deal with the situation and Congress has been very supportive if not overly compliant in the provision of resources and other means to deal with the calamities. The problem, in fact, has been the timid and oftentimes problematic way by which the Aquino administration handled the disasters (response) so far,” Dela Cruz said.

Tugna, for his part, said he would support Evardone’s proposal only if there is a valid reason for such.

“It is best to put such a proposal on the table and be subjected to consideration and debates,” Tugna, a deputy majority leader said.

“I support this proposal so as to have a timely potential solution to the aforesaid two escalating problems. Although some may question its unconstitutionality because the 1987 Constitution is very strict in granting vast powers to the President (out of their experience of abuse during martial law),” Tugna said.

Evardone, member of the ruling Liberal Party (LP), lamented that that “the sad state of our power and mass transit facilities which have been the result of long years of neglect has very debilitating effects on our economy and people.”

Evardone underscored the need for the government to fast track the construction of more power plants not only to meet the growing demands of a growing economy and to lower the cost of electricity.

“In the same manner, we need to fast track also the construction of mass transit system in metro manila to arrest the worsening traffic problem and provide commuters a more efficient mode of transport facility,” he said.

In another development, two administration lawmakers on Friday welcomed the Supreme Court’s ruling on the inclusion of several power plant producers in the twin petitions against power rate hike, calling it an “initial victory”.

“This is a welcome relief to consumers battling the soaring power rates at the time when allegations of collusion are very strong,” Barzaga pointed out.

PEMC is the operator of electricity trading flood Wholesale Electricity Spot Market

Tugna of Citizens’ Battle Against Corruption (Cibac)said that any increase in power rate hike “should be temporarily restrained” pending the final legal resolution on the matter. “All interested parties should be made to explain on the impending power rate hike.”

Meanwhile, Barzaga slammed the Office of the Solicitor General for abandoning its mandate to respond in behalf of the ERC and Department of Energy on the power rate petitions before the high court.

He said it was unimaginable when Office of the Solicitor General asked the High Court that the defense of the Energy Regulatory Commission and the Department of Energy be undertaken by the lawyers of Manila Electric Co. instead of the Solicitor General.

The Office of the Solicitor General filed a Manifestation and Motion on January 2, 2014 before the Supreme Court praying that it be excused from filing the Comment on behalf of public respondents—ERC and the DOE, and that the defense of the two concerned governemnt agencies be undertaken by private respondent Manila Electric Co (Meralco).


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