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The real issue

Here they go again!

The recent tragedy on the death of 32 and the injuries suffered by 45 other individuals aboard the Leomarick bus at Carranglan, Nueva Ecija is a crystal clear proof that our transportation authorities have never learned enough lessons from previous tragedies including the accident in Tanay, Rizal that happened last February and claimed the life of 15 individuals—all but one were students of Bestlink College of the Philippines-Quezon City.

Both accidents were caused by the malfunctioning of the vehicles’ break system, which in turn can be attributed to the age of the vehicles and the quality of their maintenance.

Is it enough that the government is now phasing out public utility vehicles that are older than 15 years?

Let us assume for now that such policy of the government is enough. How is the implementation of the policy? Is the government able to take old vehicles off our roads?

In the Tanay crash, the Land Transportation Franchising and Regulatory Board (LTFRB) found out that the subject bus of operator Panda Coach Tours was actually 29 years old and not 13 years old as per its Certificate of Registration (CR) issued by the Land Transportation Office (LTO).

What is interesting is the LTFRB’s pronouncement that the subject bus has “erroneous” CR? Is it just an “error” for one to falsify vital information in an official document? Is it simply an “error” for one to alter the chassis and engine numbers of vehicles to support false information about a vehicle’s age?

The policy of phasing out public utility vehicles, particularly buses, as well as cargo trucks that are too old to be road worthy will not serve the purpose of protecting the people if agencies like the LTO and LTFRB are unable to put in place control mechanisms in their operating systems that will ascertain the true age of vehicles being registered.

In the case of the “erroneous certificate of registration” of the Panda Coach Tours’ bus in the Tanay crash—who committed the “error”? The more substantial question is—why didn’t the LTO figure out the “error” before it registered the vehicle?

In tragedies like this, our government authorities always look for the driver or the operator as the answerable party. In the cases of the Panda Coach Tours and Leomarick bus tragedies, and other similar accidents, it is clear that vehicles that are not road worthy were on the road because of the failure of the transportation authorities in our government to implement a policy that effectively prohibits the registration of buses that are older than 15 years. Shouldn’t the concerned transportation officials and employees be made to answer for such tragedies as well?

This is simply an accountability question and issue. (Dr. Ramon Ricardo A. Roque, CESOI, Diplomate)

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