By Argyll Cyrus Geducos
An enraged President Duterte has ordered a nationwide crackdown against unregistered, or what is commonly called colorum, public utility vehicles (PUVs) following the tragic bus accident that killed 19 of its passengers in Occidental Mindoro late Tuesday.
Duterte issued the order in his speech delivered in Bisaya at the 16th founding anniversary of the Supreme Tribal Council for Peace and Development, Inc.Friday evening in Davao City.
The President warned that during arrests or impounding, drivers and operators should better not put up violent resistance as his order against drug suspects shall apply to them.
“If you resist arrest and the lives of the police were in danger, my order to them was to kill you,” he said in Bisaya.
Prior to delivering a speech in the said event, Duterte made an unannounced visit to the crash site in Sablayan, Occidental Mindoro in the afternoon with Land Transportation Franchising and Regulatory Board (LTFRB) chief Martin Delgra III, and Special Assistant to the President (SAP) Christopher “Bong” Go.
In his speech, Duterte revealed that he ordered the police and transport officials to arrest and conduct drug tests on all drivers and operators of unregistered PUVs, and impound their vehicles.
“I had a meeting with the Highway Patrol (Group) and the chief of police there. I told them to ‘apprehend all the colorum drivers and operators in the Philippines’,”Duterte said.
“Lock them up because I want them to experience life in jail,” he added.
The President explained that the arrest of the colorum public utility drivers and operators is valid because they are violating laws and regulations.
“When a vehicle is not registered and uninsured, and you park it in terminals that is already considered as fraud,”Duterte said, noting that the vehicles are not being maintained well by the owners.
“We got used to vans that are unregistered, uninsured, and has unmaintained engines and tires, and we do not do anything about it almost everyday,” he added.
Delgra, in a text message, said Duterte’s firm instruction to the LTFRB is to intensify their anti-colorum operations around the country.
“Walang patawad (No one will be excused). If they resist, call in the HPG and the army,”Delgra recalled Duterte’s order.
Duterte also said in his speech that he will “connect” all laws to lead the acts of colorum drivers and operators from fraud to homicide to “put an end to all this”.
Duterte said that the government is also to blame for the spread of colorum vehicles as law enforcers would turn a blind eye and politicians were afraid of losing elections.
“It would eventually be declared as an accident,” he said.
“The police are inutile if it can’t put a stop to the practice,” he added.
He added that some colorum drivers who get involved in mishaps would not even be apprehended for reckless imprudence.
Duterte then said that it was now time that the government proved itself and should be responsible in protecting the people.
“I’ll say that it’s time that we give the people in cities a good government and a government that accepts responsibility,” he said.
“The deaths [from accidents] should stop. My heart bled for the victims. They died because of these sons of b*tches even if it was not yet their time,” he added.
Presidential spokesman Harry Roqueon Saturday said that Duterte has ordered the cancellation of the franchise of Dimple Star Transport, noting that there will be a scheduled hearing on April 18where the LTFRB will initiate the processing of the cancellation.
“For the time being, the LTFRB has issued a 30-day preventive suspension order covering the entire fleet of Dimple Star, which consists 118 bus units,” he said.
Police have already impounded at least 44 Dimple Star buses which they chanced upon in Mindoro Occidental and Oriental provinces after President Duterte ordered the arrest of the owner of the transport company.
Supt. Imelda Tolentino, spokesperson of the MIMAROPA (Mindoro Oriental and Occidental, Marinduque, Romblon and Palawan) regional police, said the 44 Dimple Star buses were already placed under police custody as of yesterday.
Twenty buses were taken to the Provincial Police Office of Oriental Mindoro while the other 22 buses were placed at the Police Regional Office, according to Tolentino.
The Criminal Investigation and Detection Group (CIDG) has already started its investigation to determine the possible accountability of the owners of the Dimple Star who surrendered to the police on Friday.
Protests? Go ahead
Duterte said that he would not care if transport operators and drivers would stage protests against his new order, saying that the spread of colorum PUVs have already been ailing the roads for a very long time now.
“I don’t care about, protest. I’ll give you one year to do so. I’ll just declare a one year vacation for everybody,” he said.
“It has been there like cancer, Many Filipinos died too soon because of the illegal racket of these people,” he added.
The President also said that he does not care if there would political setbacks that would result from his order.
Roque, in a statement Saturday afternoon, enumerated Duterte’s order regarding the bus accident, especially now that a lot of people are expected to return to their hometown for the Holy Week.
“We are concerned with the safety of the commuting public especially with the anticipated exodus of travelers this Lenten season; thus, the President has directed transport officials to ensure the safety of Filipinos traveling to the provinces,”Roque said.
The Palace official reported that during Duterte’s visit to Occidental Mindoro, the President personally expressed his sympathy to the families of the victims and checked the injured of the bus crash.
“The President gave P20,000 to each family of the deceased and P10,000 plus cellphone for every injured,”Roque said.
“Per the LTFRB, starting Monday, March 26, the families of those who died would directly be receiving P200,000 while those injured will receive P20,000 from the Passenger Accident Management and Insurance Agency (PAMI),” he added.
Bribery probe sought
Meanwhile, Senator Grace Poe urged authorities to investigate the alleged bribery of LTO employees in the inspection of vehicles during registration.
As the investigation on the Dimple Star bus crash is underway, Poe called on concerned agencies to look into “the bigger picture” on the cause of such deadly road accidents.
In particular, the senator wants to investigate how the LTO, the agency in charge of vehicle registration, conducts its inspections prior to approving vehicles to traverse the country’s roads.
Poe, chair of the Senate Committee on Public Services, cited the rampant practice of “no-show” or “non-appearance” of vehicles seeking new or renewal of their registration or franchise, or during emission tests. The complete inspection of vehicle, including emission tests, is a requisite to annual registration.
“Information that reached us said that in paper, motor vehicles undergo and pass the test, but the reality is a number of them were never tested,” she said in a statement. (With reports from Aaron B. Recuenco and Vanne P. Terrazola)
Tags: bus accident, colorum, Dimple Star, Land Transportation Franchising and Regulatory Board, LTFRB, Martin Delgra III, Nationwide crackdown vs PUVs, Occidental Mindoro, President Duterte, public utility vehicles