Villar Has Open Mind on Emergency Powers
Villa, Rod L., Manila Bulletin
Speaker Manuel Villar said yesterday he was ''keeping an open mind'' on proposals to grant President Estrada emergency powers to deal with the conflict in Mindanao and elsewhere.
He said he was mindful of Congress' "exclusive powers" as mandated by the Constitution to grant the Chief Executive extraordinary powers in coping with the southern "war," mindful of the stress on economic development.
Villar's statement highlighted his regular weekly multi-media conference at the House of Representatives' Media Center in Diliman, Quezon City.
The leader of the House of Representatives said he foresees a long debate on the proposal to grant Mr. Estrada with extraordinary powers to deal with peace and order and the national economy which he described as "manageable."
The House leader said, "There may be no need for a special session if the left-over work by at least five committees is finished before the opening of the regular session."
Should a special session be convened, he said, this would only be to ratify administration bills already approved by both houses of Congress.
Turning to the oil situation, Villar declared that a cartel by the three big oil companies must be prevented, stressing that they must compete with one another. Otherwise, he said Congress will be compelled to approve a law to deregulate the vital commodity, "even only as temporary basis" and that this be pursued "within the year during my term."
He said Congress was keeping a tight watch on the activities of the oil companies, and said "if they act as a cartel, we will regulate."
Villar said there was a vital need to strengthen the finances of government, and one such source could be the road users' tax.
He said the move was unpopular, but that, "we are not running in a popularity contest."
The House Chief said motorists should share in the cost of maintaining the roads.
Villar said he would oppose any political interference with the military operations in Mindanao and elsewhere. "We must allow them the pursuance of their military strategy to achieve their objective."
He said there must be only one military organization, and that this is the Armed Forces of the Philippines, and that a military organization by the Abu Sayyaf and any other rebel organization "must not be allowed to happen."
The House leader said the Mindanao problem "is not as serious as the Huk movement of Luzon that threatened to take over Malacanang."
Villar said the fall of Camp Abubakar would pave the way for real and honest -to-goodness negotiations leading to permanent peace.
He said he was ready to sit down with government leaders to discuss added legislation to end the Mindanao problem.
He added that the House has approved a bill preventing the lower courts from issuing temporary restraining orders on government projects filed by losing bidders, but that this must be adopted into a law.
The concept of special and emergency powers, Villar said, "is nothing new since this was granted twice to former President Fidel V. Ramos at the height of the power and water crisis in the 90s."
He referred to former appellate presiding justice Jesus Elbinias as explaining that the "grant of special powers simply exempts the Chief Executive from certain procedural requirements under pertinent laws, rules of court or regulations of other government agencies to expedite the development of Mindanao."
Villar stressed Congress is bent on approving measures to ensure that the grant of special presidential powers will not be abused. …