It is baffling how Filipinos continue to be “surprised” or even “shocked” by the deadly toll resulting from the animal-like driving behaviour of Filipino bus drivers. The account of a motorist who witnessed the most recent “accident” involving a Don Mariano Transit bus that killed 18 people is a familiar one…
Irene Sisperes, a motorist who witnessed the accident, said she was driving with her daughter at 80 kilometers per hour when the bus overtook her car. She estimated that the bus was traveling at between 100 kph and 110 kph.
Sisperes said it was still dark and it was raining when the accident happened.
“After a few meters, I saw the bus fall and I shouted, ‘The bus fell, the bus fell,’” she said in a radio interview. She said there were no other cars nearby.
Most motorists have had personal experiences negotiating Manila’s roads side-by-side with psychotic public bus drivers. To clarify a minor point here, these really aren’t public bus drivers in the real sense but private businessmen. Filipino “public” bus drivers drive on commission. They ply Manila’s roads with the aim of fattening commissions on ticket sales for the day. As such, they will find ways to grab their passengers, turnaround as many trips as possible within the day, and extend their working hours to the edge of what is in a lot of cases a drug-induced minimum driving lucidity.
As such, bus services in the Philippines defy any efforts to put them within broad and modern routing system. More importantly, the current system strongly incentivises the owners of these buses and the drivers who pilot them to ignore the law in their pursuit of profits. And because the granting of franchises to bus and other public transport services is a contentious and highly-political process, people and families with strong connections with politicians and government officials and lots of money to grease that connection are often key players in this industry.
The odds that any of these key players in this homicidal industry will be held to any semblance of account for a long history of maiming, death, and destruction to property in the near future is overwhelmingly stacked up against the general Filipino public. Beyond the sort of limpdicked manner that Media outlets and law enforcement agencies name and shame bus companies whenever accidents like these happen, no big boss of any of these companies has ever been put behind bars.
Malacanang, for its part, is essentially inutile; issuing what in essence is no more than a pathetic platitude that is of little comfort to the families of the victims…
Presidential Spokesperson Edwin Lacierda assured the families of some 20 people who were killed and the survivors of the bus mishap that investigation has been ongoing and whoever would be responsible would be held accountable.
“I think tragedies like this fully serve to remind the common carriers that they have an obligation in transportation law, extraordinary diligence,” he said, adding sanctions are imposed upon them if an accident occurs.
Excuse me, sir, but “common carriers” do not need reminders. They need to have their asses kicked whenever they break the law. Unforunately for the hapless Filipino, their government does not wear the right footwear for the job and instead walks around in tsinelas claiming they merely serve their “boss”.
So much for any hope of looking to the Philippine government for solutions.
The trouble with the Philippines is that the only consistent law that applies in the land is the law of impunity. Indeed, the popular and widely-acknowledged-to-be-true urban legend in the Philippines is that Filipino bus drivers have standing orders, in the event of an accident involving a pedestrian, to make sure the victim is dead — usually by putting their vehicles in reverse after an accident to run over the victim one more time for good measure. That way, the cost of compensation involves a one-time funeral expense rather than a lifetime of support for a surviving victim. Perhaps that is why so many crashes involving buses are so violent. Killing is part of the job description.
There is a mountain of evidence to attest to the reality that the way “public” buses are deployed and operated on Manila’s streets simply does not work. They menace the public rather than serve, and their business model props up the institutionalised corruption that has persisted in the Philippines’ licensing and regulatory agencies for decades. Anecdotal evidence suggests that former judges, military officers, and police chiefs disrproportionately account for the list of people who own bus line franchises in the country. Level playing field? There is no such thing in Philippine business. The consequences of this inbred style of doing business are fatal as we can now see.
Maybe someday the Philippines can stop pretending to be a modern country and actually start behaving like one. Until then, “mishaps” — whether caused by super-typhoons or homicidal bus drivers — will continue to blight the national conscience. The Philippines remains a victim more of an ingrained refusal of its people to help themselves than of any force of nature or outcome of providence that its people would like to believe determine their destinies.
Help ourselves? Too hard. Mamaya na lang.
[Second photo of EDSA traffic jam coutesy Boylit De Guzman.]
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