“The working condition that has led drivers and conductors to be in this risky situation should be looked into, if not made a priority in investigations,” Hachoso said, “if the government is really serious about improving the safety of the public transport system.”
Members of Kabisig Bus Transport Workers Alliance said bus drivers and conductors are “the last person who would deliberately court accidents.” Their work is in public service and they are better off if they do it well, they said. Besides, accidents are costly to them, Hachoso said. It can cost them their earnings, their livelihood, even their health or their lives.
But the government agencies tasked to mind transportation, such as the DOTC, only looks at the problem of traffic and colorum vehicles, totally leaving the issue of transport workers’ livelihood and welfare to the private operators.
Worse, Hachoso said, various government agencies seem to treat them more as “milking cows” – flagging their members for the slightest traffic violations that usually come with excessive fines. Drivers and conductors shoulder the cost of these fines, Hachoso said, not the operators.
If drivers complain, their “lack of discipline” will again be raised to shut them up. In other important issues affecting the livelihood of the drivers, such as the proposed raising of toll fees, the drivers and conductors are also not being heard. In fact, they are hardly properly represented. “Even the LTFRB and LTO habitually call only on the operators, and not on the drivers and conductors’ associations.”
In Cebu, the vehicle accidents that occurred within a space of 20 days recently, claiming 40 lives and injuring 90, had brought about efforts for greater “road safety improvement” from the provincial police and the LTO (Land Transportation Office). Same with the renewed road safety training and investigations being spearheaded in Metro Manila with the go signal of President Aquino himself.
But all these road safety improvement could be in vain, because the “root causes” of accidents are not being given attention. In Cebu, Arman Perez, secretary general of Bayan Muna, said the accidents could have been avoided if LTO and LTFRB had been doing their job religiously.
“Why did those bus units pass the test without the thorough inspection of LTO and LTFRB? There is something fishy going on in those two agencies,” said Perez, who added that road-worthiness tests being done by the government are useless if even defective buses could still pass the test.
It is not acceptable, Hachoso of Kabisig said, that despite the crucial role they play for public service, they are accused of being murderous drivers and are left at the mercy of private, profit-driven operators as well as government agencies that treat them like milking cows.
To improve road safety, Hachoso urged the government to look deeply into the plight and working conditions of bus drivers and conductors and to reconsider the deregulation of public transport industry in the Philippines. Ferrying people to and from their destination is a crucial task that should be under the government’s firm regulation, Hachoso said. But the government “has given capitalists too much freedom to manage and profit from servicing public transport needs. The result is that the quality of this public service has suffered, causing hundreds of deaths in road accidents that could have been avoided.” (Bulatlat.com)
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