Licensed to kill, maim, injure and destroy

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The Christmas season has been totally destroyed for at least 20 families because the driver of one bus line – Don Mariano Transit – decided to drive a little too fast on the wet Skyway last Monday morning.

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As a result, the bus he was driving rammed the railings and fell from the elevated Skyway on a van below. Both vehicles were crushed and at least 18 were killed on the spot.

It may not be fair at this point to pin the blame completely on the driver, but there is no denying the role that the bus firm played in the fatal accident that destroyed so many lives. Is it any wonder why Don Mariano was named as recently as two years ago as one of the deadliest bus companies where safety records are concerned?

The Land Transportation and Franchising Regulatory Board must take a long, hard look at the company and its management.

Specifically, the LTFRB must review the policies of Don Mariano where the road habits of its drivers are concerned.

Reckless driving seems to be the norm for Don Mariano’s bus drivers. They show little regard for the safety and comfort of their passengers. The company’s buses have been known to sideswipe smaller vehicles like private cars. In one instance, a motorcycle driver was killed when his unprotected vehicle was bumped by a Don Mariano bus.

The notoriety of the company’s drivers is, therefore, well earned. But they would not act the way they do without the tacit consent of the firm’s management.

The only thing they haven’t done yet is to back up on a pedestrian or motorist that has been run over, assuring his certain death. There have been rumors that such a policy is recommended by some bus companies on the principle that it is easier to work out a settlement with the family of a deceased victim, rather than one who has survived and who will need extended or even lifetime medical treatment.

This is not to say that Don Mariano enforces such a heartless policy, but one cannot help but ask why this bus company has been involved in so many small and major accidents in the last several years, while other bus firms have had substantially better records.

Everything points to the owner and management of the bus company as being guilty of at least not enforcing sufficient internal safety regulations to protect their passengers and the general public.

The LTFRB suspended the franchise of the company for a period of 30 days after the accident. This is the correct first step.

Before that franchise is reinstated, the Board must make sure that all the company’s drivers are of sound mind and good health, not just physically but emotionally as well. They must be tested for drug use, as the public may be justified in its belief that some drivers are forced to use drugs because of the harsh policy of bus companies to enforce the quota system.

By most accounts, 22 died in that accident, while a smaller number survived but had to be hospitalized. The families of the fatalities will each receive P75,000, a pittance in this day and age. The injured, meanwhile, will get P15,000 each.

There may not be a law, but Don Mariano Transit is morally obligated to give maximum support to those died or were injured following Monday’s accident.

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