Monday, August 23, 2010


If “Murder, as defined in common law countries, is the unlawful killing of another human being with ‘malice aforethought’, and generally this state of mind distinguishes murder from other forms of unlawful homicide (such as manslaughter),” from a certain perspective, it may be said that the 42 people who died may have been murdered. According to another online legal dictionary, “the term malice aforethought did not necessarily mean that the killer planned or premeditated on the killing…” So what and who caused the death of those innocent people?

The thought of last Wednesday’s bus accident in Sablan still send shivers down my spine. I could’ve been on that bus, perhaps on my way to San Fernando to meet with a client which I do once in a while, or for a day at the beach with friends and family. And what about the reported passenger who boarded the ill-fated bus just minutes away from the site of the accident? What a tragedy - 41, some reports say 42, people died. Reports also say that the driver survived and will be charged with reckless imprudence resulting in multiple homicide. The operators will probably be included in the suit. The company’s franchise will most surely be suspended for some time, the whole fleet grounded. Sadly, in a month or so, and this is perhaps the bigger tragedy, everything will be back to business as usual. What business?

We have been told that the bus lost its brakes causing the driver to lose control of the vehicle causing it to fall into a steep ravine causing the death of 42 of the passengers and injury to some 8 or 9. But, also according to some local media persons, when the conductor was first interviewed, he narrated that they did notice much earlier, when they were just leaving Baguio, that the air pressure for the vehicle’s braking mechanism (the bus had air brakes) was slowly going below the prescribed or standard level. They were once again reminded of this when they picked up that one passenger just minutes before the crash. But they decided to go ahead anyway. Typical pinoy driver “kaya pa ‘yan” or “ok lang ‘yan” thinking. Their vehicle’s spewing out poisonous black smoke? “Ok lang ‘yan.” One or both headlights aren’t working? “Ok lang ‘yan, kita ko pa naman yung daan e.” Brake lights aren’t working? “Ok lang yan, meron namang DISTANCIA AMIGO sa likod e.” Their vehicle’s tires’ treads are dangerously worn? “Kaya pa ‘yan, di naman flat e.” What if this driver was among those who seriously believe that a seat belt is nothing more than a nuisance and should only be worn on when there are cops around to avoid being cited and fined for not wearing his seatbelt? What if he’s among those who got their licenses through the “palakad” system wherein for double or triple the usual amount paid to get a valid driver’s license, one wouldn’t have to go through the mandated traffic safety seminar, written and actual driving tests, and at times even the required drug test? 

I know of a person who bragged about his numerous fake licenses under different fake names and the lengths he had to go to acquire them, and I wondered why he never bothered to go to the same lengths to acquire a genuine one instead. I know of a person who has failed the written test required to get a driver’s license who, instead of exerting more effort to study and learn what he needs to know to pass the exam, is exerting all efforts to find someone who knows someone at the Land Transportation Office (LTO) who can be bribed so he wouldn’t have to take the test at all.

And now another news report tells us that the operator of the ill-fated bus, Eso-Nice, “is one of the 807 franchise holders that appear to have irregular documentation,” according to the Department of Transportation and Communication, and that the franchise issued to Eso-Nice, according to the DOTC Cordillera director the same news report says, “violates a 1996 DOTC circular that imposed a moratorium on franchises covering Baguio City.”

So, what if the owners of the bus are among those who operate illegally and without the proper authorization? Or those who pay off authorities to forego stringent maintenance requirements? Or among the greedy ones who subscribe to the “pwede na ‘yan” mentality and the pinoy’s penchant for “remedyo" and  would go ahead and put their vehicles on the road knowing that certain parts are defective or replaced with inferior spare parts just to save on maintenance costs?

The measly hundreds or considerable thousands of pesos that changed hands in illegal transactions at the Land Transportation Office or at Land Transportation Franchising ad Regulatory board may have killed those innocent people. Legitimate transport operators would have had their vehicles undergo periodic maintenance keeping their vehicles safe and sound. Honest and vigilant government personnel would not let any unregistered and unlicensed bus on the road, and ensure that those in operation legally are really road worthy. Uncorrupt government personnel would have ensured that only qualified and educated drivers are given licenses and a qualified and educated driver would not knowingly put his and the lives of his passengers in grave danger.  

Graft and corruption kill people. Knowingly engaging in corrupt practices can result in the death of people. We know that. And that, for me, falls under “malice aforethought.” That, to me, is murder.

Sunday, August 8, 2010

Now what?

In the months leading to this year’s elections, Baguio produced an extraordinary number of experts in public administration and local politics. They commented criticized, damned, commented on practically every issue – the Athletic Bowl hysteria, the garbage problem, the traffic schemes. They all professed their love for Baguio – in the wonderful virtual world that is the world wide web, in fact, it was as if there really was a competition as to who loved Baguio the most. They were vigilant, their words were impassioned. They went to Burnham Park to pick up plastic cups, have pinikpikan picnics and plant some seedlings. For a moment it did feel like Baguio’s renaissance was in sight.

They did all they can to shape public opinion, not being totally aware that they were also writing Baguio’s history in the early stages of its second century.

Scheming, aspiring and/or come-backing politicians took advantage of the prevailing public sentiment, and jumped on the bandwagon. Facebook status updates became campaign slogans, blog entries became platforms of government on newsprint campaign flyers. People didn’t want some Korean-led consortium to spearhead the development of the Athletic Bowl, and the politicians said they have a better alternative. People were getting impatient about the garbage crisis, and they said they will solve the problem within 60 days if elected. People were getting tired of the traffic situation within the Central Business District, and they vowed to immediately improve the situation.

And we bought it, lock, stock and barrel. Lapped it up, got lost in the hysterics. We let bygones be bygones – the sly attempt to put up a gambling haven in the city; the controversial suspicious and utterly one-sided pay parking scheme that was rammed down the people’s throats that had motorists coughing up twenty pesos every time they stopped their cars practically anywhere in the city. We ignored the fact that a lot of the problems that Baguio is facing today were created by the inaction, ignorance and indifference of the same people who were now positioning themselves as the city’s saviors.

And it’s been said that there were people too, both private citizens and those in public service, who took advantage of these politicians’ desperation to regain and/or hold on to power and accepted the envelopes that promised them a few days’ worth of cheap alcohol and instant noodles in return for what supposedly was their sacred vote, uncaring, unaware, that the envelop bought way more than that: the dignity of this glorious city.

I know, it’s too early to criticize the newly installed administration, I accept that. But this early, we are being told that we can’t afford the rehabilitation of our parks, after all; that there really is no solution in sight in the near future for the city’s garbage problem; and that one of the solution to our traffic problem is to reconsider bringing back that much-hated pay parking scheme that we rallied and fought against not so long ago.

And the flash-in-the-pan pundits and Baguio-lovers have been quiet. Save for the occasional “no to Beneco’s planned development of a property along South Drive,” Baguio net-izens have been posting really nothing more than the usual cut-and-paste quotations, amusing YouTube videos, what they had for lunch, what movie pirated DVD they’re watching tonight, and online relationship status updates. It’s complicated. In the meantime, the garbage continues to pile up and nobody’s picking up trash on weekends anymore.

Now more than ever, experts on and defenders of Baguio, we need you. We began writing this part of Baguio’s history last May 10, 2010 – now what?