By Artha Kira Paredes
Photos by Mario Ignacio IV
THE driver of the taxi journalist Chit Estella was riding when she was killed last year blamed two buses that hit his cab along Commonwealth Avenue in Quezon City, one with such impact it spun around.
Vitu Jagunos, the driver of the Abu Abbey Taxi that Estella rode on May 13, 2011, told the court on Wednesday the Nova bus first grazed the right portion of the taxi, removing the side mirror, before the Universal Guiding Star Bus hit the taxi's rear seconds after. The impact of the second bus caused the taxi to make a U-turn, he said.
The Universal Guiding Star Bus was driven by Daniel Espinosa and Nova Bus by Victor Ancheta
Jagunos was the first witness to be called in the case of reckless imprudence resulting in homicide and damage to property filed against the two bus drivers.
Estella, whose full name is Lourdes Estella-Simbulan, was a journalism professor at the University of the Philippines Diliman College of Mass Communication and a founder and trustee of VERA Files at the time of her death.
She was on her way to the UP Ayala Technohub on Commonwealth Avenue to meet friends when Jagunos picked her up in front of Mercury Drug store at Tandang Sora and Visayas Avenue between 5 and 5:30 p.m.
Among the pieces of evidence were Jagunos' subpoena and his driver's license.
Espinosa's and Ancheta's lawyers are set to question Jagunos in the next hearing scheduled on Aug. 1 at 2 p.m. at the Quezon City Regional Trial Court Branch 83 presided by Judge Ralph Lee.
Estella's husband, Roland Simbulan, who now heads the Families of Road Victims and Survivors (FRVS), meanwhile, welcomed a Department of Labor and Employment order providing drivers and conductors of public utility buses with "wages for all actual work during the normal work hours and days (that) shall not be lower than the applicable minimum wage rates."
DOLE Order No. 118-12, or the Rulesand Regulations Governing the Employment and Working Conditions of Drivers and Conductors in the Public Utility Bus Transport Industry, takes effect on July 1.
Simbulan said the minimum wage for bus drivers and conductors, together with the imposition of a speed limit, could help prevent other road accidents.But he said road safety laws are still needed.
Pending in Congress is House Bill 4685, or the Road Safety Act of the Philippines, proposed by Cavite Rep. Lani Mercado-Revilla.
The bill seeks to prohibit the use of cellular phones,as well as require vehicles to slow down at pedestrian crossings and motorcycle drivers to have "both hands on the handlebars," while driving while driving.
The bill's explanatory note said Estella's death "shows that traffic rules along Commonwealth Avenue in Quezon City are not strictly implemented" because the 60 kph "allowable speed" set by the Metro Manila Development Authority "runs counter to the maximum allowable speed" in the Land Transportation and Traffic Code"for passenger cars and motorcycle which is pegged at 40 kilometers per hour and 30 kilometers per hour for motor trucks and buses."
Approved in 1964, the code, or Republic Act No. 4136, states that "the rate of speed of any motor vehicle shall not exceed the following:
|MAXIMUM ALLOWABLE SPEEDS||Passengers
Cars and Motorcycle
|Motor Trucks and Buses|
|1. On open country roads, with no "blinds corners" not closely bordered by habitations||80 kph||50 kph|
|2. On "through streets" or boulevards, clear of traffic, with no "blind corners," when so designated||40 kph||30 kph|
|3. On city and municipal streets, with light traffic, when not designated "through streets"||30 kph||30 kph|
|4. Through crowded streets, approaching intersections at "blind corners," passing school zones, passing other vehicles which are stationery, or for similar dangerous circumstances||20 kph||20 kph|
Another bill, HB3370 or the Bus Drivers and Conductors Compensation Act filed by Representatives Teddy Casino and Rafael Mariano, also aims to provide "minimum wage fixed by law" to bus drivers and conductors like the DOLE order.
Meanwhile, Quezon City Councilor Ivy Lim-Lagman is proposing a resolution to put up a marker at the site of Estella's accident "to symbolize the city's firm commitment to make Commonwealth Avenue safe for vehicular traffic."
The marker would also recognizeUP's partnership with the Quezon City government "to make (the) avenue a rallying point for a viable urban living and to attain the distinction of one of the safest urban thoroughfares."
The proposed marker inscription reads in part: "This Marker is in memory of the late U.P. Professor Ma. Lourdes Estella-Simbulan and to the lives which were cut short catalyzing the Quezon City Government and the University of the Philippines to ensure that not a single life has been lost in vain."
(VERA Files is put out by senior journalists taking a deeper look at current issues. VERA is Latin for true.)