Solon backs criminal raps on PUV owners

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A lawmaker has backed the filing of criminal raps to the owners and operators of public utility vehicles (PUVs) in cases of injuries and deaths caused by road accidents.

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Rep. Sherwin Gatchalian of Valenzuela City, a stalwart of the Nationalist People’s Coalition, made the call on Thursday in light of the death of 18 people and injury to 20 others as a result of a speeding Don Mariano Transit bus flying off from the Skyway in Parañaque City en route to jamming a van along the South Luzon Expressway.

The Highway Patrol Group has already filed charges of reckless imprudence resulting in multiple homicide, multiple physical injuries and damage to properties were filed against the owner of the bus company and the driver, Carmelo Calatcat.

Gatchalian underscored that the criminal liability in such accidents should fittingly extend to owners and operators of buses and PUVs, considering that Don Mariano Bus Lines only has four out of its 77 buses deemed roadworthy by the Land Transportation and Franchising Board (LTFRB).

“The fact that only four out of their 77 buses are deemed roadworthy is enough proof that there is something wrong. Drivers may be the ones who are directly accountable in times of accidents, but owners and corporations should also be aware of their responsibility when it comes to public safety,” Gatchalian argued.

He also urged the Land Transportation Office and the LTFRB to set-up auditing mechanism for PUV operators to ensure that they are strictly complying with the safety policies set by the government because public transport is a shared responsibility between the state which grants the franchise and the transport operators.

“Operators and transport companies must imbibe the safety culture adopted in the airline industry where strict safety records are imposed on the carrier companies from fleet maintenance, health checks and developmental training,” Gatchalian said.

“Everyone should understand that public transport has an economic value and purpose. By laying down the foundation for an accident-free travel, people get to work on time and increase their productivity, while movement of goods and services are faster and more efficient,” he added.

In a separate interview, Speaker Feliciano Belmonte Jr. traced the reckless driving of PUV drivers to the labor-intensive boundary system wherein a significant and fixed amount of the daily earnings of a certain bus or jeepney is remitted to the operator or owner while the driver and bus conductor get to settle with what remains of the daily earnings.

“There are speeding drivers, defying common sense in doing so, because of this boundary system. I was a Labor [department]reporter back in 1957, and drivers at that time work beyond eight hours because they want to earn so much beyond the boundary [the amount of money that they are required to remit to the operators],” Belmonte pointed out.

“They should have a fixed monthly salary,” added Belmonte, also a lawyer.

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