Dimple disaster indicts govt neglect

LAST month yet another bus crash claimed 19 lives. The death trip occurred in Sablayan, Occidental Mindoro, hundreds of kilometers southwest of Manila.

It was the year’s first road-transport tragedy but, already, in this early part of 2018, the mishap easily ranks as the worst in the Year of The Dog thus far.  

All the more horrific and heart-rending is the fact that the fatalities and the other victims were mostly, yet again, from the poor, toiling folk, including the 21 or so survivors. They were our own brothers and sisters who did not have the luxury of traveling in the comfort and, yes, safety of their own private vehicles.

Why it had to happen, again, is a refrain as old as a dirge—if not time itself.

And have we seen the last of the killer road crashes, a result once more of a flurry of flaws arising from, where else, but government neglect of traffic-law enforcement, lack of road-safety features like sufficient lighting on major arteries like our national highways and the eagle-eye watch needed to pin down operators of poorly maintained buses, not to mention “colorum” (unlicensed) vehicles?

I doubt that very much.

For as long as corruption persists in government agencies tasked to enforce the laws on road worthiness, especially on our public conveyances, God forbid, more tragedies are waiting to happen.

Now, if there’s not even a tinge of lament in your heart from this latest bus tragedy, you need a psychiatrist my dear fella—badly.

Did any one of the 40 or so passengers of the ill-fated Dimple bus, the driver and conductor included, ever have any inkling that it would be a ride to forget, a ride of death to the no-luck 19 that perished?   

It was about 5:20 p.m. on March 20 when the Manila-bound Dimple bus left San Jose in Occidental Mindoro. At around 9 p.m., the bus was negotiating a winding national road in the town of Sablayan. Then suddenly, the brakes failed. The police quoted crash survivors as saying the driver was heard shouting of a brakes malfunction.

This caused the bus to virtually zoom downwards uncontrollably on the downhill highway, until it hit a roadside pile of soil and fell on its side. It would skid like a train jumping out of its tracks, and smash into a railing guarding the Patrick Bridge in Barangay Batong Buhay. It plunged into a ravine, into 20 meters or so of total darkness; if it was into a howling wilderness, only God knows.

In true barrio fashion, the barangay residents were the first rescuers. And, among the victims, they found Arno Panganiban, the driver, and the bus conductor dead. Most of the fatalities were seated at the front of the ill-fated bus.

Christmas Day crash

IT melts the heart, indeed, but only three months back—in December—a Christmas Day crash in La Union killed 20 people. Before that were bus accidents on February 20 that killed 13 students in Rizal province and April 18 that killed`35 people in Carranglan, Nueva Ecija.

Oh, dear God, where did we go wrong?

In 2010 the deadliest-ever crash killed 42 of 50 passengers in a Benguet-bound bus that included a famed movie-TV comedian.

All this time that these killer bus accidents were happening, have you seen justice served afterward? 

Were the victims’ plights properly addressed?

Has there been any prosecution of bus operators, their conviction no less, whose vehicles caused the deaths of scores?

The answer to all of the above? None.

Duterte pained

OH, yes, we’ve seen the grounding of buses—even a fleet of them.

As in the case of Dimple Star, whom the Land Transportation Franchising and Regulatory Board (LTFRB) had suspended, initially for 30 days following the crash in Sablayan.

Was the move the result of President Duterte’s rage? 

So pained was Mr. Duterte that he made an unannounced visit to Sablayan to visit the wakes for the fatalities. 

According to the presidential special assistant Bong Go, the President, in another show of iron-fisted style of leadership, ordered the arrest of Hilbert Napat, the Dimple Star operator. Good job.   

Can his LTFRB subalterns follow suit, please?

What Sen. Grace Poe has to say about this spate of bus tragedies, as the Inquirer quotes her, is an oblique support to Mr. Duterte’s act of compassion to the Sablayan victims: “Sadly, the list of tragic road accidents and their casualties continues to increase because vehicles that are not roadworthy, or even those we label as rolling coffins, are still allowed to ply the roads with near impunity.”

As the nation is barely done wiping away its tears over the Dimple disaster in Sablayan, another road crash has happened, this time in historic Taal in Batangas province. 

Losing its brakes—yet again—a 10-wheeler truck loaded with sugarcane struck the rear of a sugarcane-laden 10-wheeler truck. The Holy Wednesday tragedy killed seven persons, who were merely having breakfast when the bumped truck smashed into the MJ Eatery in Barangay Carsuche at around 6 a.m.

When will we ever have a break from this oft-repeated curse of faulty brakes?

Or, bettering the question: When will the LTFRB buckle down to work in the serious business of implementing the laws on road safety? Is its “Tanggal Bulok, Tanggal Usok” the real answer?

I’m out of here.

 

PEE STOP Tomorrow, Saturday, the Fortuner-lover Bert Bravo will host the inauguration of his Bravo Golf course in Dumaguete City in the company of select friends that include golfing journalists from Manila. More power, Pareng Bert!

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