Land transport remains a mess

Published by rudy Date posted on May 18, 2011

Going by the cabbie’s narrative, his passenger, noted journalist Chit Estella, was killed by a reckless bus driver last Friday dusk. As told to Chit’s husband, Prof. Roland Simbulan, they were southbound on the 16-lane Commonwealth Avenue, Quezon City. One need not be familiar with the place to picture what happened. The taxi was slowing down, signaling to veer from the second to the rightmost lane, into the UP Technohub driveway. Whoosh! — an over-speeding bus zipped on the right, tearing off the cab’s side-mirror. “Bakit (why)!” Chit exclaimed. A split second later — wham! — another bus rear-ended them, crushing the cab’s rear compartment and seat, killing Chit instantly. Bus driver and conductor fled, not bothering to check on the victims or surrendering to the police.

The buses evidently were racing each other — as often happens on that widest road in the Philippines. That’s in spite of the special 60-kph speed limit there for public utility vehicles. There’s a security camera on an electric post nearby, by which traffic aides monitor Commonwealth Avenue. They can check out the cabbie’s story. Surely they know too, as angry motorists and commuters reported to radio talk shows, that in the days after the fatal collision, buses were still gaily racing each other on what has come to be called Killer Highway.

What ever happened to the road discipline drive of Metro Manila and land transport authorities? Did they not announce to educate bus drivers and penalize operators for frequent traffic infractions on major thoroughfares? Were they not supposed to devise a system to supplant the “boundary” (quota) that makes drivers contest each other in picking up passengers? A rider complained to DZMM radio hosts Ted Failon and Pinky Webb yesterday about the driver of one bus. The maniac had a slingshot and a bagful of stones, with which he hit other drivers who beat him to the passenger stops. At one point a dog happened to cross the street, and the driver purposely stepped on the accelerator to run over the poor animal. There are many of them out there. To such fiends do we ordinary folk entrust daily the lives of our commuting parents and children. Our officials don’t feel any urgency, as they sit in the comfort of air-conditioned SUVs, with lead and backup security vans shielding them.

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Another thing authorities should look into is the proliferation of motorcycles with no license plates. Too many of those bikes have only cardboard signs claiming “For Registration,” as if no plates are available from the licensing agency. Some bikes are so old that it’s impossible to still be unregistered, unless the owners are up to no good. Others have officious markings in lieu of regulation plates, like “City Hall” or “Police” or “PNP”. Yet the riders are not in any uniform, only in shorts, undershirt and slippers — no helmet. Go to any city and you’ll find such colorum bikes. They are the perfect covers for equally proliferating guns-for-hire, invariably riding bikes tandem as they strike.

Real motorcycle cops have official plates alright. But some cover these with red or blue plastic sheets to effectively make the numbers unreadable. Others swing the plates upwards, that you’d need to have wings and fly to read the markings. Why do law enforcers have to set the example of lawbreaking?

Then there are the commemorative car plates heralding “Lawyer”, “Prosecutor”, “NBI”. Can’t the National Bureau of Investigation publicize by other means its forthcoming 75th anniversary? There’s also a “LEAP,” whatever that means. (Googleing the acronym, hundreds of entries popped up; one I liked is Land-Use Effects on Amphibian Populations.) You’d spot on average three such commemorative plates a day in major cities, double in Metro Manila. Did the Land Transportation Office approve such plates? Did it not realize that those are affronts on the President’s inaugural promise of “No more (traffic) counter-flowing, no more wang-wang (sirens)? In short, no more braggart VIPs on the roads? –Jarius Bondoc (The Philippine Star)

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