Doing nothing is a crime. It’s criminal negligence

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AL S. VITANGCOL 3RD

AL S. VITANGCOL 3RD

“The PNP statistics in 2015 that appeared in a leading broadsheet painted a sickening landscape of a ‘crime explosion’ in the country. It is almost a travesty of justice that addressing such a dismal situationof crime has not been given priority in the past Administration.”

— Mr. Dante LA Jimenez in his Ulat sa Bayan during the VACC’s 18th Founding Anniversary on Aug. 29, 2016.
The past Administration’s lack of concern and inaction was not limited to the law and order situation but to almost all aspects of society. Nothing substantial has been done to improve the lives of the people and the society. Their officials refused to act on important matters to avoid the risk of being sued in case they failed. They just wanted for their term to end, doing nothing. But do they know that doing nothing is a crime? It is criminal negligence.

Criminal negligence defined

Black’s Law Dictionary defines negligence as “the omission to do something which a reasonable man, guided by those considerations which ordinarily regulate the conduct of human affairs, would do, or doing something which a prudent and reasonable man would not do. Negligence, in its civil relation, is such an inadvertent imperfection, by a responsible human agent, in the discharge of a legal duty, as immediately produces, in an ordinary and natural sequence, a damage to another.”


From the same dictionary, criminal negligence is “a case of neglect or negligence of such nature that it will be punishable as a crime.”

Hence, in its simplest form, criminal negligence is the failure to do something (omission), in the discharge of one’s duty, which causes damage to another. If a public official fails to perceive the substantial risk, which his inaction (doing nothing) poses to the public, then it is considered criminal negligence on the part of that official. His inaction is deemed a crime and he should be penalized.

For example, nothing was done by the officials concerned with traffic management. Their inaction resulted in great damage to the public – lost wages, unfulfilled appointments, economic losses, pain and suffering, etc. These officials can now be sued for criminal negligence.

Gross negligence

Gross negligence, on the other hand, pertains to the “intentional failure to perform a manifest duty in reckless disregard of the consequences as affecting the life or property of another.” This is different from a mere failure to act or simple inadvertence.

Gross negligence consists of a conscious and voluntary act or omission, which is likely to result in grave injury in the face of a clear and present danger. It is criminal in nature when accompanied by acts of commission showing a conscious indifference to the rights and welfare of persons affected by it.

Provisions of the Revised Penal Code

Our Revised Penal Code (RPC) states, that “Acts and omissions punishable by law are felonies. Felonies are committed not only by means of deceit but also by means of fault. There is deceit when the act is performed with deliberate intent, and there is fault when the wrongful act results from imprudence, negligence, lack of foresight, or lack of skill.” By omission, the Code meant inaction, the failure to perform a positive duty, which one is bound to do.

The sole chapter under title Fourteen of the RPC deals with criminal negligence, which is considered a quasi-offense. Quasi means it “resembles” or “having some but not all of the features of” an ordinary crime.

Example: New Jersey lane closure

A good example of a case wherein public officials in charge of traffic management were subsequently found guilty of criminal negligence is the “unannounced” lane closures on a major bridge in New Jersey sometime in 2013.

In the early morning of Sept. 9, 2013, two of the dedicated three toll lanes going to Fort Lee were closed to local use and motorists were redirected to the main highway. The closure order came from David Wildstein, the second highest executive at the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey. The Fort Lee local government and its police officials were not notified of the closure. The lane closures resulted in the swelling of traffic congestion in the area, considering that the highway in itself normally experiences heavy traffic during rush hours.

The situation led to delays in school transportation and police and emergency responses within Fort Lee.
Newspaper accounts of the incident described traffic jams preventing timely paramedic response to a 911 call from a 91-year old woman, who subsequently died of cardiac arrest. In another emergency call, medical workers were compelled to abandon their ambulance and respond on foot given the heavy traffic congestion. The emergency responders were delayed nearly one hour in rendering assistance to a man experiencing chest pains.

Fort Lee Administrator Peggy Thomas then informed the Port Authority that their police and emergency departments did not receive any advance notice of the closures, and because of that, police and ambulances had difficulty responding to emergencies.

On Sept. 13, 2013 the executive director of the Port Authority, Patrick Foye, ordered the reopening of the lanes. He said the decision to close the lanes was “hasty and ill-advised” and that it “violates Federal Law and the laws of both States.”

The Port Authority’s chairman, David Samson, then found himself in the center of media attention amid allegations of ethical violations and conflict of interest. Samson resigned on March 28, 2014. Thereafter, a grand jury was convened to interview witnesses, and indict, if necessary, the officials involved in the lane closures for criminal liability. Wildstein was indicted by the grand jury and he offered a plea bargain on May 2015.

The trial of the other officials was rescheduled several times, the most recent of which was for Sept. 12, 2016.

The Metro Manila experience

For the last six years, we, Metro Manilans, and in some parts outside the metro, have been experiencing heavy traffic congestion on a daily basis.

The Manila Times reported way back in December 2013 that, “traffic jams do not only drain the patience of motorists and commuters. They drain the economy as well.” It reported that “road congestion in Metro Manila can cost P140 billion a year in lost investment, reduced capital inflow and wastages.” A study conducted by the Japan International Cooperation Agency (JICA) in 2012 found that time lost by people stuck in traffic and the extra cost of operating vehicles in gridlock in metropolitan Manila and nearby areas amounted to P2.4 billion ($51 million) a day.

Based on this newspaper’s report last year, one sitting senator, whose political party (and uncle’s inaction) was responsible for the traffic mess that we are all in, predicted that “if not immediately and fully addressed, economic losses due to heavy traffic in Metro Manila could balloon to P6 billion a day from the current P2.4 billion by 2030.” The irony of it all.

Protect the people’s rights

In the example discussed above, the resulting persistent traffic jams (only for a week) prompted a grand jury investigation in New Jersey. Here, in the Philippines, commuters and motorists have been suffering the same ordeal for six years, yet the situation has remained unchanged and no public official has been punished for being responsible for the traffic woes inflicted on us all. These public officials are criminally negligent – they caused undue damage to the economy and brought untold sufferings to the motorists and the commuting public.

How come nobody is hauling these former (and some who are still tenaciously clutching to their positions) officials into court? Where are the likes of Sammy Malunes and Elvira Medina? Where are the Makabayans? Where are our “concerned” citizens?

The New Jersey example and the Metro Manila counterpart only dwell on the traffic mess problem that we experience daily. The concept of criminal negligence applies to a wide variety of indiscretions and inactions, not solely to traffic management.

Why is there a proliferation of drug trade? Who are responsible for this? Why was nothing done during the last six years?

Why do we have a flawed judicial system? Who are responsible for this? Why was it not reformed? Why was nothing done during the last six years?

Why do our people remain poor? Why can’t they get out poverty? Who are responsible for this? Why was nothing done during the last six years?
Just asking.

* * *

Congratulations to our newspaper, The Manila Times, for being awarded the Outstanding Newspaper by the VACC on its 18th Founding Anniversary.

Email your comments to allinsight.manilatimes@gmail.com.

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12 Comments

  1. Nothing of course will happen during the tenure of Aquino, 6 years? 6 years of doing nothing! What do you expect from a moron, idiot president like Aquino? Tell me….

  2. Mr. Vitangcol, can you spill the beans on what’s the real score on that Czech Amb. Josef Rychtar allegations? This was buried by the previous administration because it potentially leads to someone close to PNoy’s heart. Unless you were a party to this plan to enrich yourself with the deal, there’s no reason for you to fear…the vindictive PNoy is no longer in power.

  3. I think we should give chance to Atty. Vitangcol! He used to be criticized by many journalists like Mr. Jarius Bondoc. But now, they are the best of friends as the said journalist have learned the truth about Vitangcol. You might want to hear his side.

  4. Why was nothing done during the last six years? Absence of political will to bring about change which is made more apparent by continued pursuit of political power to amass fame and fortune. Politics is a huge money bin which can corrupt. As we all know, money is the root of all evil. To the power hungry, money is everything, notwithstanding the troubles that it brings.

    Traffic woes, they’re universal. There’s really little that can be done about it, although they could have eased it by any means possible. But they didn’t, instead they allowed long traffic queues to persist.

    Poverty and illegal drug trafficking, these are reversible societal afflictions that should have been among PNoy’s program of governance. Of course it is not realistic to make every Filipino rich, but at least make the lives of the unfortunate members of society more livable, with opportunities on hand to subsist day-to-day. The PNoy administration was truly criminally negligent of the plight of the lower sectors of society whose living conditions deteriorated on a daily basis, which is still prevalent today. And thanks to PNoy, poverty now becomes synonymous with drug trafficking. With his six solid years in office , he could have provided the unfortunate simple but sustainable means of livelihood instead of neglecting them and leaving them to hold on to the edge of a knife (“hawak sa patalim’), which is believed by some to be a driving force to deal in illegal drugs. Mind you, this is not the way to live and there are many ways to make a living, lowly but noble and sustainable. But the lure of money is just irresistible despite the danger it entails.

    Somebody somewhere has to be made accountable for his misdeeds, while the present Administration tries to heal the deep wound that he inflicted upon the people.

  5. Mr Vitangcol, how can you be a credible columnist while you are charge in the Sandigan Bayan for the MRT procurement anomaly ? How can Manila Times employ a person like Mr Vitangcol ? I am sure you guys know what this guy did.

    • I don`t know Mr. Vitangcol, but he is innocent until proven guilty Sir Max, sounds like you are interested on his case. If you know something aside from tsismis mukhang typical pinoy ka tsismoso, back stabber, crab/nega mental. Lay down any evidence that you know aside from what you hear from tabloids
      like ABS CBN, ENQUIRER etc. any evidence nothing to worry you hide your real name anyway…

  6. During the last administration everyone tend to act “dumb” after all no one is overseeing them because everyone is busy fattening their pocket. The messy traffic in EDSA, proliferation of illicit drugs, selective governance, manipulation of the justices and the venal legislature just to name a few which will make one cringe and wonder where is our country heading. Our very natural resources and infrastructure are sold to foreigners through dummies, exploitation of our workforce inorder to increase the country GDP. Our economy has no backbone to sustain when crisis come by. Its starting to emerge now the laid off OFW will be a burden to our economy and what about the rehabilitation program for the shabu addicts. The new administration of President Duterte has to endure all the expenditures and hopefully something can offset the debit. Right now the new administration seem to be lavished in its disbursement or monetary allocation. The tempestuous scene bwtween the DSWD and a member of the congress is now evident that its has the tendency to slide into the unconstitutional pork and barrel. My narration of the ignominy will somehow enlightened a bit your curiousity.

  7. Al Vitanggol, you yourself is party to this criminal negligence of operating the LRT/MRT in a mismanage way due to,your malicious contract of maintenance of the railway awarded to,your uncle -in-law who had no experience and capital to provide professional train maintenance. Because of your intentional fraud and negligence the train suffered a very bad operation which affected commuters and the economy for years. No wonder you are now charged with AntiGraft by the Ombudsman in the Sandiganbayan. Together with Abaya, Roxas and Benigno Aquino, who was an incompetent president, the traffic management has become a monstrous catastrophic operation. All,of you must be prosecuted and put to jail, not only for negligence but for fraudulent, deceitful actions/omissions amounting to a crime to,the people of the country. Vita ggot you are allegedly corrupt as the others as found by Ombudsman

  8. “How come nobody is hauling these former (and some who are still tenaciously clutching to their positions) officials into court?” – Indeed. Given your knowledge, capacity, and even influence, can you please do the honors of hauling those criminals to court?