Lawmakers oppose Tugade as traffic czar

(The Philippine Star) - September 29, 2016 - 12:00am

MANILA, Philippines – Lawmakers crossed party lines yesterday to oppose the grant of traffic-related special powers to Transportation Secretary Arthur Tugade and to designate him as “traffic crisis manager.”

Reps. Rodolfo Albano lll and Harry Roque said Tugade should not be given blanket authority to reorganize agencies that have to do with traffic.

Roque sees no need for Congress to enact a law to give additional powers to Tugade, including the authority to reorganize agencies under him, since President Duterte can already do this.

“No such law is necessary,” he said.

“The President can already reorganize agencies through an executive order under the Administrative Code.”

The proposed “Traffic and Congestion Crisis Act of 2016” that Tugade submitted to the House of Representatives names him as “traffic crisis manager.”

It provides that “all powers, authority and functions over land traffic management of Metro Manila Development Authority, local governments, Land Transportation Office, Land Transportation and Franchising Regulatory Board, Philippine National Police, Toll Regulatory Board, Philippine Ports Authority, Civil Aviation Authority of the Philippines, Civil Aeronautics Board, Manila International Airport Authority and other agencies and instrumentalities... shall be vested in the Traffic Crisis Manager.”

It also grants Tugade the power to “modify, amend, or expand the functions of the concerned agencies...”

Albano said it is only the President “who can reorganize the agencies under the Department of Transportation and those that have to do with traffic and transportation.”

Reps. Alfredo Garbin Jr. of Ako-Bicol and Lito Atienza of Buhay joined their colleagues in opposing Tugade’s request to be designated as traffic management czar for the next two years.

Garbin said Congress needs a detailed list of projects that the government would implement to address the traffic crisis.

“The executive branch is in a hurry to pass the emergency powers bill, but based on our hearings, we have learned that the DOTr and MMDA have yet to come up with concrete projects under the bill,” he said.

Atienza said Tugade must first exhaust all available legal means to deal with the traffic problem before seeking additional blanket powers.

“There are many factors contributing to the traffic problem that can be addressed without resorting to emergency powers,” he said.

“There are so many roads in Metro Manila which are not being utilized as alternate routes to ease traffic congestion simply because they are being used as illegal parking spaces or as terminals of public utility vehicles such as the bus terminals at Buendia and Taft.” 

Atienza said Tugade does not need special powers to clear roads of obstructions.

Parañaque Rep. Gus Tambunting said the parameters must be concrete and transparent.

“In this case, with great power comes great responsibility,” he said.

“And whoever shall be given these powers needs to be very qualified. Imagine how much worse the traffic problem will be if no solution or the wrong solution is implemented using these powers.” 

Minority Leader Danilo Suarez said it was difficult to grant blanket powers to the DOTr since its officials are “conflicted.”

“I have to be very straightforward with my concern,” he said. “Secretary Tugade and Undersecretary Noel Kintanar are from Ayala firms or have done business with the Ayalas. They might favor the Ayalas’ business interests.”

Speaker Pantaleon Alvarez has raised the same conflict-of-interest issue against DOTr officials. 

“In every administration, private corporations put their people in departments covering their business. Whose interests are you serving?” he asked Tugade and his officials.

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