A question of incompetence - SunStar

A question of incompetence

Jerome NeriAtty. Jerome G. Neri
The Scrutineer

THE video evidence of that tragic Skyway accident shows an overspeeding bus hitting a pool of standing water, losing control as it was hydroplaning, then hitting the guard rail and falling off the Skyway. Photographic evidence shows that the tires of the ill-fated bus was so worn out that there was no more thread pattern left.

All these evidence points out to three persons being at fault: the bus driver for driving recklessly fast, the bus operator for operating a bus with tires that are worn and unsafe to use, and the Skyway authority for poorly maintaining the structure. There should be no excuse for having a standing pool of water in an elevated highway yet poor construction and/or maintenance are the cause. These three persons should be held liable for this tragedy.

I have read and seen on various forums the reactions, comments and suggestions from different people, concerned citizens and politicians alike. I can see the true concern of the citizens and the stupidest comments from our politicians. There is a citizen’s group clamoring for the installation of electronic speed limiters on all buses, limiting it to 80 km/h, and as we speak a petition is going around soliciting our signatures.

FALL. At least 21 people died, mostly passengers, and more than 20 others were injured when a passenger bus plunged from an elevated highway known as the Skyway in Metro Manila last Dec. 16, officials said. (AP FOTO)
FALL. At least 21 people died, mostly passengers, and more than 20 others were injured when a passenger bus plunged from an elevated highway known as the Skyway in Metro Manila last Dec. 16, officials said. (AP FOTO)

The Executive Department of our government is just reminding the public utility drivers and operators of their legal obligation to use extraordinary diligence, while Congress is suggesting legislation of a new speed limit law. The Senators want the law against drunk driving to be implemented as soon as possible and are asking the Executive branch to fast-track the Implementing Rules and Regulations of the law.

But to prevent another tragic accident from happening again, all the suggestions of the concerned citizens and government officials are wrong and ineffective because our safety problem in the public mass land transportation system goes a lot deeper.

The main problem of our land public transportation system is incompetence. We have incompetent professional drives who were given a professional driver’s license by an incompetent LTO. We have incompetent public transportation operators who were given franchises by and incompetent LTRFB. Our roads are hazards in themselves, thanks to an incompetent DPWH. It is incompetence that must be addressed.

I am a lawyer and to become a lawyer I had to study very hard for four and a half years and pass the Bar exams. An average of about 20 percent of those who take the bar exams become lawyers. In other professions, it is a similar story.

In the driving profession, it is completely different — just apply for a professional drivers license and you get one. Yes, there is a written exam that is very easy to pass as there are professional drivers who cannot read or write but have passed the written LTO driving exams. There is absolutely no actual hands-on driving test with sufficient standards to check the competence of the driver’s license applicant.

Very rarely does a professional driver get his license revoked, while all of us law abiding citizens witness every day that the most reckless and arrogant drivers are the ones in the public utility sector. Unlike in the case of lawyers, accountants, doctors and other professionals, the lives of thousands of people are in the hands of public utility drivers every single day. The qualifications of professional public utility drivers should be raised together with the promulgation of stricter regulations.

A franchise to operate public utility transportation is a privilege and not property. However, it is already common practice that these franchises are being treated as properties. They are being sold at premium prices. As long as you are willing to pay, you can get a franchise.

The problem here is that we now have operators of public utility vehicles that carry paying passengers from one place to another that are virtually rolling coffins. We have public transportation operators who do not have proper maintenance facilities and qualified and certified mechanics. It is the existence of these unprofessional operators that flood our streets with vehicles that are not road worthy and are accidents waiting to happen.

How many times have I seen a public utility van along the Transcentral Highway that is clearly running beyond the manufacturer’s maximum capacity, using substandard brakes that it is cooled down by spraying water on the brakes, when the proper solution is using brake pads with a wide working heat range and staying within the bounds of the allowed capacity of the vehicle?

Our roads a littered with multicabs that have been extended and converted into jeepneys, and therefore doing something it was not designed to do and effectively putting lives at risk. The LTFRB has completely forgotten about safety. The irony of it is that they are very strict with the taxis that carry a lot fewer passengers in comparison to jeepneys or buses. We hardly see taxis that are more than 10 years old, while there are 50-year-old jeepneys plying our streets and carrying about 20 passengers.

Two major safety components of motor vehicles are brakes and tires yet there are jeepney and bus operators that use bonded brakes and recapped tires instead of brand new high-quality brake pads and tires. The LTFRB needs to clamp down and revoke permanently franchises of operators who have poorly maintained public utility vehicles.

Another source of road mishaps are the roads themselves. Our roads are hazards in themselves. Diggings here, potholes there, and bumps everywhere. This is the result of the continuing failure of the DPWH to provide the public with proper roads for motor vehicles and sidewalks for pedestrians. They have not built a decent road in my lifetime and I am 44 years old. Something must be wrong with their system and they need to change it.

Straight roads (matuwid na daan) are for unskilled drivers.

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