The thought of last Wednesday’s bus accident in Sablan still sends shivers down my spine. I could’ve been on that bus, perhaps on my way to San Fernando to meet with a client which I do once in a while, or for a day at the beach with friends and family. And what about the reported passenger who boarded the ill-fated bus just minutes away from the site of the accident? What a tragedy - 41, some reports say 42, people died. Reports also say that the driver survived and will be charged with reckless imprudence resulting in multiple homicide. The operators will probably be included in the suit. The company’s franchise will most surely be suspended for some time, the whole fleet grounded. Sadly, in a month or so, and this is perhaps the bigger tragedy, everything will be back to business as usual. What business?
We have been told that the bus lost its brakes causing the driver to lose control of the vehicle causing it to fall into a steep ravine causing the death of 42 of the passengers and injury to some 8 or 9. But, also according to some local media persons, when the conductor was first interviewed, he narrated that they did notice much earlier, when they were just leaving Baguio, that the air pressure for the vehicle’s braking mechanism (the bus had air brakes) was slowly going below the prescribed or standard level. They were once again reminded of this when they picked up that one passenger just minutes before the crash. But they decided to go ahead anyway. Typical pinoy driver “kaya pa ‘yan” or “ok lang ‘yan” thinking. Their vehicle’s spewing out poisonous black smoke? “Ok lang ‘yan.” One or both headlights aren’t working? “Ok lang ‘yan, kita ko pa naman yung daan e.” Brake lights aren’t working? “Ok lang yan, meron namang DISTANCIA AMIGO sa likod e.” Their vehicle’s tires’ treads are dangerously worn? “Kaya pa ‘yan, di naman flat e.” What if this driver was among those who seriously believe that a seat belt is nothing more than a nuisance and should only be worn on when there are cops around to avoid being cited and fined for not wearing his seatbelt? What if he’s among those who got their licenses through the “palakad” system wherein for double or triple the usual amount paid to get a valid driver’s license, one wouldn’t have to go through the mandated traffic safety seminar, written and actual driving tests, and at times even the required drug test?
I know of a person who bragged about his numerous fake licenses under different fake names and the lengths he had to go to acquire them, and I wondered why he never bothered to go to the same lengths to acquire a genuine one instead. I know of a person who has failed the written test required to get a driver’s license who, instead of exerting more effort to study and learn what he needs to know to pass the exam, is exerting all efforts to find someone who knows someone at the Land Transportation Office (LTO) who can be bribed so he wouldn’t have to take the test at all.
And now another news report tells us that the operator of the ill-fated bus, Eso-Nice, “is one of the 807 franchise holders that appear to have irregular documentation,” according to the Department of Transportation and Communication, and that the franchise issued to Eso-Nice, according to the DOTC Cordillera director the same news report says, “violates a 1996 DOTC circular that imposed a moratorium on franchises covering Baguio City.”
So, what if the owners of the bus are among those who operate illegally and without the proper authorization? Or those who pay off authorities to forego stringent maintenance requirements? Or among the greedy ones who subscribe to the “pwede na ‘yan” mentality and the pinoy’s penchant for “remedyo" and would go ahead and put their vehicles on the road knowing that certain parts are defective or replaced with inferior spare parts just to save on maintenance costs?
The measly hundreds or considerable thousands of pesos that changed hands in illegal transactions at the Land Transportation Office or at Land Transportation Franchising ad Regulatory board may have killed those innocent people. Legitimate transport operators would have had their vehicles undergo periodic maintenance keeping their vehicles safe and sound. Honest and vigilant government personnel would not let any unregistered and unlicensed bus on the road, and ensure that those in operation legally are really road worthy. Uncorrupt government personnel would have ensured that only qualified and educated drivers are given licenses and a qualified and educated driver would not knowingly put his and the lives of his passengers in grave danger.
Graft and corruption kill people. Knowingly engaging in corrupt practices can result in the death of people. We know that. And that, for me, falls under “malice aforethought.” That, to me, is murder.