The risks of emergency powers

Gov. Lou Leon Guerrero invoked her public health emergency directive when she faced public scrutiny over her administration’s business deals with hotels that have been used as quarantine facilities. The declaration of state of public health emergency, she said, has authorized her to acquire emergency procurements—which means, services and supplies were commissioned without competitive biddings.

No one -- as Sen. Sabina Perez pointed out — has questioned the merits of leasing the hotel rooms to implement Covid-19 preventive measures. The hotels housed the USS Theodore Roosevelt sailors and arriving passengers, who were required to be quarantined for 14 days.

It was the manner by which the transactions were done that raised a red flag. The process was riddled with alleged anomalies such as the unauthorized use of a cabinet official’s digital signature, the curious involvement of an important relative during the negotiation, the lack of written contracts, and the unclear criteria for selection.