GLORIA WARNED ON EMERGENCY POWERS

Manila, March 21, 2003 -- President Arroyo is courting impeachment if she clothes herself with emergency powers, Senate President Franklin Drilon and other senators said yesterday.

The senators reacted to Arroyo's announcement on Wednesday that the National Security Council authorized her to exercise emergency powers to deter hoarding and price manipulation during the US-Iraq war.

"She is going to be liable for impeachment, for culpable violation of the Constitution, if she clothes herself with emergency powers without any authority from Congress," Sen. John Osmeņa said.

"She has sufficient powers under existing laws insofar as control of prices of prime commodities is concerned. So I don't think there is need for additional powers at this point," Drilon said.

Sen. Teresa Aquino-Oreta said the problems raised by the President, like profiteering and skyrocketing fuel and consumer prices, could be better addressed by keeping government agencies on their toes.

"Malacaņang is again resorting to legal shortcuts when it chose not even to consult the Congress or wait for its approval on the grant of these special powers," Oreta said.

She said the Palace appeared bent on carrying out broad powers even without congressional consent based on Arroyo's statement that the executive orders about emergency powers were just waiting for her signature.

Sen. John Osmeņa cited Article VI, Section 23 of the Constitution, which states that "in times of war or other national emergency, the Congress may, by law, authorize the President, for a limited period and subject to such restrictions as it may prescribe, to exercise powers necessary and proper to carry out a declared national policy."

Osmeņa said the President should call Congress to a special session if she really needs emergency powers.

"But this (oil price hike) has not been proven out because we have seen from reports that the price of petroleum products went down after President Bush declared war on Iraq," Osmeņa said.

"Siguro hindi siya magpapadala doon sa mga nakapaligid sa kanya na mga war freak na tinutulak siya, lalo na 'yung dalawang military na nasa tabi niya, si Secretary (Angelo) Reyes at Secretary (Roilo) Golez," Osmeņa added.

Sen. Aquilino Pimentel agreed that the President needed to consult with Congress before exercising emergency powers.

"In dealing with the terrorist problem, she is not allowed to do anything except what is provided under the Revised Penal Code," Pimentel said.

He said if the President is thinking of suspending certain civil liberties to give her the legal armor to clamp down on terrorists, she has to consult Congress.

Arroyo said she did not need the concurrence of Congress but would consult with the lawmakers before exercising emergency powers.

The President made the statement during yesterday's graduation rites of the Philippine Military Academy (PMA) in Baguio City.

"These shall be used in consultation with Congress for the sake and welfare of the Filipino in the midst of extreme economic and security contingency. But I do not see a necessity of such powers at this moment," she said.

Presidential spokesman Ignacio Bunye said the consultation would just be in deference to Congress but the President does not really need its consent.

The President said the only special powers that need congressional approval are the declaration of martial law and the suspension of the writ of habeas corpus.

Arroyo also said the investigation of the six banks allegedly engaged in currency speculation was aimed at getting rid of opportunists, market speculators and dollar hoarders.

Arroyo said these violations, at a time of crisis like today, are tantamount to economic sabotage.


Reported by: Sol Jose Vanzi

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