QUEZON CITY (MindaNews/11 April) — This is the second installment of the four-part series of articles on emergency powers excerpted from the paper: Extraordinary Measures: Constitutional Powers in Times of Crisis.
Not long after Corazon C. Aquino was installed as President by the first People Power revolution, her presidency was severely tested by several attempts to overthrow her government. The most serious of these attempts was the bloody December 1, 1989 coup attempt by hundreds of renegade soldiers that left several dead, hundreds wounded, government buildings bombed, and the fledgling economy damaged almost irreparably. On December 7, 1989, President Aquino issued Proclamation No. 503 declaring a state of emergency, and invoked Article XII, Section 17 of the Constitution which empowers the government to take over any privately owned public utility or business affected with a public interest. The reason given for the proclamation was the senseless loss of lives, destruction of properties, and serious social and economic damage brought about by the aborted coup.
Congress later followed suit and enacted Republic Act No. 6846, in pursuant to Article VI, Section 23 (2) of the Constitution which gave the President broad emergency powers for six months to address the crisis and enable economic reconstruction. The powers enumerated are as follows:
1. Protect people from hoarding, profiteering, injurious speculations, price manipulation, product deception, cartels, etc. of food, clothing, medicines, office and school supplies, fuel, fertilizers, etc. whether imported or manufactured locally
2. Purchase any articles or commodities mentioned for storage, sale or distribution
3. Fix maximum ceiling prices of articles or commodities mentioned
4. Regulate fees charged by establishments in connection with production, milling, storage and distribution of articles or commodities mentioned
5. Seize and confiscate hoarded foodstuffs and commodities, provided goods wrongfully seized shall be subject to payment of just compensation
6. Call upon and designate recognized NGOs and peoples organizations, and LGUs to assist government
7. Temporarily take over or direct the operation of any privately owned public utility or business affected with public interest that violates the declared national policy
8. Liberalize importation and grant incentives for manufacture, assembly, reconditioning or importation of vehicles or vessels for public transport
9. Ensure availability of credit to productive sectors, including lowering effective lending rates of interest and reserve requirements of lending institutions
10. Stagger work hours and adopt flexible work schedules for government workers and when necessary workers in the private sector
11. Conserve and regulate distribution and use of power, fuel, energy
12. Issue orders for recovery and accounting of all firearms, explosives and military equipage
13. Undertake such other measures as may be reasonable and necessary
With such a broad grant, President Aquino issued more than twenty National Emergency Memorandum Orders (NEMOs) which dealt with maintaining price controls, confiscating loose firearms, taking over private airstrips, managing the budget deficit, temporary take-over of certain cement plants to cover the acute cement shortage situation and bus companies, witness protection programs and one NEMO even increased postage costs. Only two of these NEMOs dealt directly with the rebellion.
Her proposal to extend these powers, however, beyond the June 8, 1990 expiration period was met with stiff opposition from Congress. Ranking leaders lamented how the emergency powers were not fully used, while some sectors in the media noted the president’s reluctance to maximize the powers given to her with no attempt at innovation to cut through the red tape. They also questioned the basis for the extension, to which then-Defense Secretary Fidel V. Ramos replied that the continuing emergency stems from the continuing coup plotting by some elements of the Reform the Armed Forces Movement (RAM), the group responsible for the December 1 coup attempt. [Tomorrow: The Ramos Experience]
(MindaViews is the opinion section of MidnaNews. Dean Tony La Viña is a human rights and environmental lawyer from Cagayan de Oro City. He was a member of the Government of the Philippines Peace Panel that negotiated with the MILF from January to June 2010. He is currently the Dean of the Ateneo School of Government. Dean Tony can be reached at [email protected]. Follow him on Facebook: [email protected] and on Twitter: tonylavs)