E. Emergency powers

Atty. Jericho Del Puerto

Atty. Jericho Del Puerto

Lawyer, Author, Mentor

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a. Emergency

War and other national emergency – Congress allowed to grant President emergency powers. 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. Unless sooner withdrawn by resolution of the Congress, such powers shall cease upon the next adjournment thereof. (Section 23[2], Article VI, 1987 Constitution)

Same; Temporary take over or direct operation of any privately-owned public utility or business affected with public interest. In times of national emergency, when the public interest so requires, the State may, during the emergency and under reasonable terms prescribed by it, temporarily take over or direct the operation of any privately-owned public utility or business affected with public interest. (Section 17, Article XII, Ibid.)

Emergency. As a generic term, emergency connotes the existence of conditions suddenly intensifying the degree of existing danger to life or well-being beyond that which is accepted as normal. Implicit in this definitions are the elements of intensity, variety, and perception. Emergencies have been occasioned by a wide range of situations, classifiable under three (3) principal heads:

1) Economic;

2) Natural disaster; and,

3) National security. (David v. Macapagal-Arroyo, G.R. No. 171396, 03 May 2006)

President – only one who exercise emergency powers. It is only the President, as Executive, who is authorized to exercise emergency powers as provided under Section 23, Article VI, of the Constitution, as well as what became known as the calling-out powers under Section 7, Article VII thereof. (Kulayan v. Tan, En Banc, G.R. No. 187298, 03 July 2012)

Same; Constitutional concept. “Emergency,” as contemplated in our Constitution, is of the same breadth. It may include rebellion, economic crisis, pestilence or epidemic, typhoon, flood, or other similar catastrophe of nationwide proportions or effect. (David v. Macapagal-Arroyo, supra.)

Repository of emergency powers. Generally, Congress is the repository of emergency powers. This is evident in the tenor of Section 23 (2), Article VI authorizing it to delegate such powers to the President. Certainly, a body cannot delegate a power not reposed upon it. (Ibid.)

Limitations on emergency powers. Knowing that during grave emergencies, it may not be possible or practicable for Congress to meet and exercise its powers, the Framers of our Constitution deemed it wise to allow Congress to grant emergency powers to the President, subject to certain conditions, thus:

1) There must be a war or other emergency.

2) The delegation must be for a limited period only.

3) The delegation must be subject to such restrictions as the Congress may prescribe.

4) The emergency powers must be exercised to carry out a national policy declared by Congress. (Ibid.)

b. Power to declare state of national emergency v. Power to exercise emergency powers

Power to declare state of national emergencyPower to exercise emergency powers
The President can validly declare the existence of a state of national emergency even in the absence of a Congressional enactment. (Ibid.)The exercise of emergency powers requires a delegation from Congress, such as the taking over of privately owned public utility or business affected with public interest, is a different matter. This. (Ibid.)    

Emergency power; Take over of private business affected with public interest. Section 17, Article XII must be understood as an aspect of the emergency powers clause. The taking over of private business affected with public interest is just another facet of the emergency powers generally reposed upon Congress. Thus, when Section 17 states that the “the State may, during the emergency and under reasonable terms prescribed by it, temporarily take over or direct the operation of any privately owned public utility or business affected with public interest,” it refers to Congress, not the President. Now, whether or not the President may exercise such power is dependent on whether Congress may delegate it to him pursuant to a law prescribing the reasonable terms thereof. (Ibid.)

Same; Limitations. The President cannot decide whether exceptional circumstances exist warranting the take over of privately-owned public utility or business affected with public interest. Nor can he determine when such exceptional circumstances have ceased. Likewise, without legislation, the President has no power to point out the types of businesses affected with public interest that should be taken over. In short, the President has no absolute authority to exercise all the powers of the State under Section 17, Article VII in the absence of an emergency powers act passed by Congress. (Ibid.)

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