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Poe: Emergency powers to fix traffic must be FOI-compliant

In this August 10, 2016 photo, Sen. Grace Poe is delivering her opening statement during the hearing. Senate PRIB/Albert Calvelo

MANILA, Philippines — Sen. Grace Poe on Wednesday said the proposed emergency powers for President Rodrigo Duterte to resolve traffic woes must be Freedom of Information-compliant, which according to her should be the priority principle of the proposal.

During her opening statement, Poe, chair of the Senate Committee on Public Service, said that granting the president emergency powers could be easily abused since power would be concentrated in one person.

The senator stressed the promotion of transparency saying “everything must be well-defined” to avoid anomalies and corruption among others. She added that “the power to expedite [a] project is not a license to contract an expensive one.”

“We may allow you to take shortcuts for as long as they do not short change the taxpayers. There must be no hidden costs, or undeclared conditional debts that will be passed on to several generations,” the senator said.

“We will not go for vague powers, or blank checks. Hindi pwede ang bahala na kami. The parameters must be set. I assure you there will be elbow room and wide latitude given but not wide enough for thieves to sneak in,” Poe said.

Aside from being FOI-compliant, Poe said the proposal must be fiscally responsible and must have clear details and deadlines.

The senator also said the proposal must “permeate and penetrate all activities, contracts, projects, biddings, documents, awards, payments made pursuant to the act of granting emergency powers.” Poe said the right procedure could result in better-built infrastructure.

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“We will also insist on deadlines. 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,” she added.

The senator said the requested emergency powers must be clear on what it would be used for and the specific results it seeks. The particulars identified must include exact deliverables, cost, and projects that do not need powers, she added.

Poe gave the floor to Department of Transportation Secretary Arthur Tugade and Metro Manila Development Authority Emerson Carlos to address the Senate’s concerns.

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