This would serve another lessons to bus firm owners. Is more expensive to stop the operations than making sure the safety of their passengers?
The Land Transportation Franchising and Regulatory Board (LTFRB) declined the Motion for Reconsideration filed by both Elena Liner and MGP Trans to lift their respective Preventive Suspension Order (PSO) and not to revoke and cancel their Certificate of Public Convenience (CPCs) for refusing to comply with proper orders, rules and regulation of Board.
The two bus companies figured in a fatal road accident on 14 November 2013 resulting in the death of seven people and injuries to more than 30 passengers. An Elena Liner Bus with plate number TXN 191 rammed into a bus stop along Edsa-Magallanes southbound lane, the MGP bus with plate NVX-360 that was rear-ended by the Elena bus was operating without a valid permit.
As a result of the accident, the Board issued PSOs against Angelito A. Chan, operator of Elena Liner, preventively suspending his CPC to operate twenty one (21) bus units, and against Margarito G Penalosa, operator of MGP Trans, suspending his CPC to operate 18 units, both for 30 days.
Both operators filed motion for partial lifting of suspension as well as answered in compliance with the order to contest why their CPCs should not be suspended and revoked.
“While we recognized the financial effect on the part of the employees of the two bus companies, the rule of law must prevail above all; the safety of the riding public is the paramount and primordial consideration of the Board,” LTFRB chairman Atty. Winston Ginez said.
In the 12-page decision released by the Board today, it stated that after a thorough review of issues set forth in the Motion for Reconsideration, the LTFRB is not persuaded or convinced to lift the PSO.
The Board came up with the decision based on five key legal issues or considerations.
First, on the issue that PSOs is a violation of MGP Trans and Elena Liner’s, the decision stated that the Board, pursuant to Section 16 of The Public Service Law, has the power to issue PSO prior to the hearing and as a precautionary measure to avoid recurrence of the same accident and protect the riding public.
While the PSO is in effect, the subject units of the two bus companies must undergo road worthiness inspection to ensure they are at all times, safe, convenient and reliable. If the accident was due to mechanical failure or improper vehicle maintenance of the vehicle, the operator concerned shall subject the entire fleet for road worthiness inspection by the LTO-MVIS within 10 days.
The Elena Liner bus involved in the accident lost its brakes while MGP Trans unit was operating without a permit.
Secondly, while Elena Liner provided medical and burial financial assistance to the victims of the accident, it is their obligation as part of their CPC and not enough to absolve the bus company from the lapses it committed before or during the operation of its buses.
The Board considered in reviewing the motion whether the PUV operator violated the terms and conditions of their franchise and if they observe extra ordinary diligence before, during and after the accident.
In this regard, it is clear that Elena Liner failed to observe extra diligence during its operation by allowing their bus unit (TXT-191) to operate without checking first its road worthiness before dispatching it, hence involving in the accident due to loss of brake.
On the third issue that there must first be a conviction of the driver for recklessness before the Board can require the operator to prove that the bus company exercised extra ordinary diligence in the operation, the decision stated that the Board can exercise its power to determine whether a franchise holder is still abiding their duty.
Fourth, it stated that it is not purely a driver’s fault but a fault of the operator to poorly maintain, at all times, their bus units that is being considered by the Board. This is a ground for the Board to exercise its power not only to conduct investigations and hearing but also the power to impose penalty of either suspension and cancellation of franchise.
The fifth issue considered by the Board is that based on evidence, Elena Liner failed to observe the required extra ordinary diligence by allowing its bus unit to be dispatched despite mechanical defect.
In the case of the MGP Trans, while Penalosa alleged that it was his dispatcher and driver’s fault in allowing the phased out unit to be dispatched, the Board consider this allegation as self-serving and a violation of the terms and condition of its CPC by putting the lives of the riding public in danger.
The Board also said that MGP Trans violated LTFRB’s Standard Classification and Guidelines for Garages when it found out that the bus company’s garage in West Fairview lacks sufficient parking lot for the total authorized units and inadequate repair shop and equipment.
LTFRB, in making the decision, found that both Elena Liner and MGP Trans committed an unlawful acts under The Public Service Law in failing to provide safe, proper and adequate public transport service.
Ginez said that the Board has decided to cancel Elena Liner’s CPC and revert it back to the State. The Board ordered the bus company to cease and desist from operating its CPCs covering 21 authorized units.
The yellow plates of these units will be confiscated by the Board, and will be destructed and destroyed prior to their return to LTO.
In the same manner, the Board also ordered the cancellation of MGP Trans’ CPC covering 18 units. The bus company has been directed to also cease and desist from operating these units. LTFRB is now in possession of all its yellow plates which will be destroyed and destructed before they are handed back to LTO.
“Muli naming pinapaalalahan ang mga PUB/PUV operators na maging masinop sila sa pagsasa-ayos ng kanilang operasyon para masiguro na ang kanilang mga unit ay ligtas para ibyahe para sa kapakanan ng mga mananakay,” Ginez said.