By Ernie Reyes | InterAksyon
MANILA, Philippines - (UPDATE 5:10PM) Two senators on Sunday weighed in on last week's Skyway accident where a bus fell onto the South Luzon service road. One urged the Senate to conduct a probe into the bus crash that killed at least 18 persons and other deadly vehicular crashes in the past, and another pushed legislation for a fixed-salary scheme for public-utility drivers to once and for all end the recklessness that is often blamed on the "boundary" system.
Senator Ferdinand “Bongbong” Marcos Jr. aired the call for an investigation after a speeding Don Mariano Transit bus fell off the southbound land of Skyway and crashed on a van below along the South Luzon Expressway in Taguig City around 5:00 a.m. December 16. “What is unfortunate is that this kind of senseless death could have been avoided by proper implementation of, or compliance with, basic traffic and transport safety rules,” Marcos said.
In Senate Resolution 334, Marcos sought an inquiry into the enforcement of a 53-year-old rule and legislative policy embodied in the Civil Code (Republic Act 386), which requires common carriers to always observe extraordinary diligence in the carriage and transport of passengers and goods.
“The Senate probe will require the Department of Transportation and Communications (DOTC), the Department of Interior and Local Government (DILG), the Philippine National Police (PNP), and the Metro Manila Development Authority to report on the implementation of traffic and transportation regulations, especially with regards to common carriers,” Marcos said.
Jinggoy pushes fixed-wage scheme for PU drivers
Relatedly, Sen. Jinggoy Ejercito Estrada, labor committee chairman, pushed for the institutionalization of fixed monthly salaries and better working conditions for public utility bus drivers, saying such will promote road safety, improve traffic flow and prevent deadly highway accidents.
Estrada’s proposal is contained in Senate Bill 1372 or the “Bus Drivers and Conductors Compensation Program.” It was offered even as an interagency panel led by the Department of Labor and Employment (DOLE) last week received instructions to pursue the reforms in the public transportation employees’ wage and benefits program, after yet another bus fell from the skyway. Initial inquiry showed the bus driver of Don Mariano Transportation Corp. had been driving for 19 hours, and was running at least 40 kph more than speed limit, on a rainy morning.
Jinggoy, chairman of the Senate Committee on Labor, Employment and Human Resources Development, said that under the current boundary and commission-based compensation, bus drivers outdo and compete with each other and with limited working hours in drawing commuting passengers to ensure a decent daily take home pay for the family.
This compensation setup breeds a number of inconvenient and unsafe travel conditions for road users like clogged road lanes due to indiscriminate loading of passengers, buses beating speed limits, drivers stretching the work hours for ‘bonus’ pay, among others.
Under Senate Bill 1372, salaries of bus drivers should not be less than the prevailing minimum wage rate and must include benefits and incentives.
“A simple computation will show that drivers currently earning P900 a day and working more than 12 hours a day for three days a week will receive almost the same income based on the minimum wage for working eight hours a day for six days a week. The difference is that under the proposed act, drivers will get enough rest while operators will spend almost the same amount for salaries,” said Estrada’s bill’s explanatory note.
The bill also requires the operators of public utility bus service to observe an eight-hour daily work scheme (including at least 1 hour rest period) and two-shift system.
Violators of the law shall be meted out a fine of 100,000 to 200,000 pesos, and suspension of the franchise to operate.
Social security, too
In a separate proposal also authored by Estrada, Senate Bill 1378 or the proposed “Comprehensive Assistance Program for Public Utility Vehicle Drivers Act” provides that all public utility bus drivers be covered by the Social Security System (SSS), Philippine Health Insurance System (Philhealth), Home Development Mutual Fund (Pag-IBIG), and Employees Compensation Commission (ECC).
Senate Bill 1378 also seeks to implement a livelihood and credit assistance under Land Transportation Office and in coordination with the Cooperative Development Authority “to improve their socio-economic condition.”
The bill asks the Technical Education and Skills Development Authority (TESDA) in coordination with the Department of Transportation and Communication (DOTC) to undertake a Continuous Education and Skills Development Training Program for public utility vehicle drivers “to enhance their basic and advanced driving competencies, and knowledge on maintenance procedures, driving preparation and post-driving procedure, road safety rules and accident response procedure.”
Marcos-led probe for 'future legislation'
The probe pushed by Senator Marcos, meanwhile, will “aid the Senate for purposes of future legislation and amendments to existing traffic and transportation laws.”
Marcos said the inquiry is timely not only because of the Skyway tragedy, but also because of a spate of similar vehicular crashes like the one on Maharlika Highway in Atimonan, Quezon, the Cebu marine disaster, and other similar incidents in airports and runways.
“There is an imperative need for Congress to check on the status of implementation and enforcement of said legislative rule and policy to assess and evaluate the effectiveness of the Philippine government in confronting and addressing the matter of safety and security in our public transport system, roadways, pedestrian lanes, and other related infrastructures,” Marcos said in the resolution.