CONGRESS will have a free hand in putting in the necessary safeguards should it authorize President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo to declare a power crisis to deal with the looming energy shortage.

Malacañang stressed this Saturday as it said it is willing to wait until June for Congress to resume session, if it cannot muster the numbers to convene a special session now.

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“The Congress has to set the terms for contracts, including safeguards against abuse and mechanisms for monitoring the implementation of the contracts,” deputy presidential spokesman Ricardo Saludo said in a radio interview.

Saludo also insisted President Arroyo is not seeking special powers to deal with the looming crisis, other than those in the Electric Power Industry Reform Act (Epira).

“We are not asking for emergency powers. We are merely asking to declare a power crisis,” he said.

He also fended off accusations by the Palace’s critics that Malacañang and its allies in Congress will insert other agenda in a prospective special session.

Under Section 71 of Epira, “upon the determination by the President of the Philippines of an imminent shortage of the supply of electricity, Congress may authorize, through a joint resolution, the establishment of additional generating capacity under such terms and conditions as it may approve.”

“The government is prohibited from making contracts on added generating capacity unless there is a power crisis and Congress allows it to do so,” Saludo said.

For now, Saludo said Malacañang is holding “consultations” with its allies in Congress to see if the numbers can be mustered for a special session.

“The President will not call a special session if she knows Congress leaders cannot produce a quorum,” he said.

He also belied claims by Palace critics that Malacañang will sneak in other agenda in the special session.

“If lawmakers don’t want other agenda in the special session, they can always block it,” he said.

“Let us not insert other intrigues,” he added. (JMR/Sunnex)