Tell it to SunStar: Special powers for Duterte

By Jesus Sievert

IT IS about time and a step in the right direction that a bill seeking to give President Rodrigo Duterte special powers to expedite the implementation of his administration’s “Build, Build, Build” (BBB) program has been filed in the House of Representatives.

At least Albay 2nd District Rep. Joey Salceda had the wisdom and fortitude to file House Bill (HB) 5456 that would fast track the 75 flagship projects under the Duterte administration’s ambitious infrastructure program. This, of course, after Duterte has come under pressure to deliver on his government’s promise of ushering in the “golden age of infrastructure,” which it has partly done through low-cost loans from Japan and from China, the latter a neighboring powerhouse that has, literally, established a foothold in the West Philippine Sea from which the President has been warming up in exchange for investments in the country rather than be at war.

But the basic, central or critical point of granting Duterte special powers is considering the fact that there are only three more years remaining in his presidency and it is a must that he has to comply an obligation he has promised to the Filipino people.

In fact, Section 13 of the proposed measure specifies that the special powers for Duterte will be “valid and effective for a period of three (3) years.”

Known for his resoluteness in exercising political will, for as long as it benefits the country and its people, perhaps the likes of Salceda thought that there is no better time than now, when Duterte is the president, to have HB 5456 passed into law if only to have the BBB program implemented expeditiously and effectively.

What is noteworthy about HB 5456 is that Duterte is not only given the authority to exercise all powers needed to carry out a national policy to implement the government’s infrastructure program “unhampered by existing laws, agreements, regulations, court orders and procedures that would cause delays in addressing exclusively the implementation of flagship projects,” but could also “utilize all necessary government resources, exercise police power and employ executive actions” for the implementation of the billions worth of priority projects under the BBB program.

Another meaningful feature of HB 5456 is that it also disallows courts–except the Supreme Court–to issue temporary restraining orders or preliminary injunctions that would impede the speedy implementation of the projects.

What I am simply saying here is that the Filipino people have, for a long time now, been suffering from the encumbrances and inconveniences brought about by a progressing nation that, unfortunately, has been long held hostage by partisan politics and politicizing it further will only exacerbate the dire situation we are all in now.

HB 5456 may not be a cure all for the existing horrendous problems affecting public transport systems and infrastructures in Metro Manila and other major cities in the country, but at least it gives us a window to peek on how things could be better if managed responsibly.