MANILA, Philippines – Metropolitan Manila Development Authority (MMDA) General Manager Jojo Garcia "always agrees with the wisdom of the President," even if it means granting him emergency powers for traffic.
"Kung hinihingi ng Presidente natin, alam niya kung bakit, alam natin kung bakit, (If the president is asking for it, he knows why, we know why)," he said.
While Garcia did not provide any concrete ideas for what the emergency powers would be used for, he emphasized that it would allow them to make shortcuts in policymaking.
He expressed frustration over how projects that would take a long time to plan would be implemented for a brief period only and then immediately face an injunction – such as the provincial bus ban. (READ: After provincial bus ban mess, senators want review of MMDA powers)
"It will shorten some policymaking. Then if we can make some policies, then we can enforce it," he said.
The general manager said emergency powers are not only for procurement, which was implied by Senator Grace Poe after the provincial bus ban hearing on August 13.
She said, "Huwag nilang iisipin na porke’t may emergency powers ay puwede na nilang gawin ang lahat ng gusto nila dahil mayroon tayong Konstitusyon na sinusunod. Marahil ang gusto lamang nila ay walang bidding, delikado rin naman ‘yan, so bukas pa din kami diyan."
(They shouldn't think that just because there are emergency powers in place they can do whatever they want, because we have a Constitution that we follow. Maybe what they want is no bidding, that's dangerous, so we're still open to that.)
Garcia, however, said that if the emergency powers are not granted, it would not be reason for the MMDA not to do its job.
"Kung ano 'yung available policy na puwede naming i-enforce, 'yun ang gagawin namin (Whatever policy is available for us to enforce, we will do it)," he said.
He made this statement during an MMDA press conference on Thursday, August 22, in light of President Rodrigo Duterte's comment that without emergency powers, "let EDSA rot there," according to an Inquirer report.
Garcia said he didn't take it personally. "Lahat ng binibitawan [ng] Presidente, sineseryoso namin. Kung 'yan ay isang uri ng challenge sa amin, we're ready to accept the challenge," he said.
(Everything the President says, we take seriously. If that is a challenge, we're ready to accept the challenge.)
After Duterte failed to acquire emergency powers from Congress in 2016, a House bill was passed under Speaker Gloria Macapagal Arroyo granting the President emergency powers for traffic. This did not, however, pass the Senate.
The bill stipulated that the transportation secretary would act as the "alter-ego" of the President, having the power to harmonize and improve traffic rules and implement priority projects that target the traffic crisis.
Loreben Tuquero is a researcher-writer for Rappler. Before transferring to Rappler's Research team, she covered transportation, Quezon City, and the Department of the Interior and Local Government as a reporter. She graduated with a communication degree from the Ateneo de Manila University.