Back story: Deadly Commonwealth accidents highlight exploitation of bus drivers

The death on Friday of Lourdes E. Simbulan, a UP journalism professor and one of the country’s outstanding journalists, has brought to the fore yet again the issue of road safety, specifically road accidents on major highways caused mostly by bus drivers. While there is no doubt that these reckless drivers should be held criminally liable for their actions, there is also the matter of their working conditions that, for all practical purposes, ensure that accidents like the one that killed Simbulan would occur.

There’s a whole gamut of issues involved, among them the lax regulatory functions of the government (for example, anybody can bribe transportation officials for a driver’s license, without taking the necessary training and examinations).

But the context that is often missing in the debate about road safety is the role the owners and operators of public utility vehicles play. As these stories and special reports clearly illustrate, PUV drivers and conductors are among the most exploited workers.

As one such story points out: “The public and government officials, among them President Aquino, always blame drivers each time a deadly bus accident happens. What they don’t know — or chose to ignore– is that bus drivers and conductors are working under severe conditions imposed by greedy operators and ignored by government regulators, thus allowing these mishaps to happen in the first place.”

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