Remembering a friend & a bus full of dreamers

- Angel Rivero - The Philippine Star

It has been almost seven months since I lost my dear friend, frequent cohost and partner in crime, ‘Tado’ Jimenez, to that tragic bus crash that also took the lives of 14 other passengers last February. I am sure you can remember—tragedies like these are difficult to forget—how that GV Florida bus on route to Bontoc lost its brakes and fell off a ravine, and how the roof was ripped off from the impact, throwing many of its passengers out over a cliff. That bus was full of artists, full of dreamers.

In a statement made by Stella Embile, one of the survivors of that bus crash who now has a metal plate on her left shoulder, she said: “When GV Florida offered their services to us, the riding public, we trusted that we will be safe; that we will be reaching our destination. But we did not reach our destination... 15 of us died, 32 of us were hurt, many of us requiring major surgeries.”

She furthered that “We do not want to call the incident an accident. Accidents are unavoidable; what happened was preventable. If GV Florida did its due diligence in maintaining their buses in good condition, this would not have happened.”

In reaction to cries for justice, the LTFRB ordered all 186 units of the GV Florida bus line a 6-month suspension, hoping to give them better opportunity to audit all their buses and give them time to fix those that need fixing. Perhaps also to smooth out all the legalities of their operating units in their respective routes, and to better train their drivers for road safety.

“We have to remind everyone that the GV Florida bus that we took from Manila to Bontoc, unknown to us, used a license plate registered under Mt. Province Cable Tours and utilized an engine and chassis that were registered to Dagupan Bus Company,” explained Stella, of the bus line’s liabilities to its passengers and to the government. Further pointing out that “GV Florida actually didn’t have proper authorization from the LTFRB to operate that route.” And that despite its mandated suspension, “What we saw during the last 3 months were [GV Florida] buses changing colors and calling the same old GV Florida buses by different names.” She expressed grave disappointment that “...if it’s the same old buses, same old management system, then we strongly fear that what happened will happen again...  Nobody learned any better.”

However in an unexpected turn of events, a court decision passed last June 26 left all of the victims and their friends, families and supporters dumbfounded. The Court of Appeals lifted the suspension order on the GV Florida bus line, ruling that such suspension was a grave abuse of discretion of the LTFRB, since it was done “in the absolute absence of a violation or wrong committed.”

The survivors of this tragedy shouted out for the public to recognize how this accident has greatly affected their lives and impaired their productivity—with many of them having had to undergo operations in the skull, spine, arms and legs, which burdened them with huge medical expenses. GV Florida paid for the medical bills for some of the survivors.

“We are already on our road to recovery from our losses, but the sudden lifting of the suspension by the Court of Appeals and with us not seeing any reform on the part of GV Florida angers us; it frustrates us; it brings back all the hurt that we felt,” lamented the survivors and families of the casualties. “It makes us feel like our lives do not matter; like lives do not matter,” they said.

“The riding public may not understand what we are crying for. And that is because it did not happen to them,” exclaimed the victims in a unified statement. “Thank God it did not happen to you. Support us because we don’t want it to happen to you or to any of your loved ones,” they continued, in a cry for the LTFRB to file a motion for reconsideration, or to appeal to the highest court.

Furthermore, the victims were keen to emphasize that public transport is a public trust.

Thus, commemorating the fourth month since the February 7 bus crash, a street mural with paintings of the faces of those who perished from the accident was installed in front of the GV Florida bus station in Sampaloc last June 6, for the public to see. The painting however, was “stolen” three days after it was installed.

Another mural was again painted on July 6, alongside an event that promoted road safety, to commemorate the fifth month since the bus crash; but sadly, the families and friends of the victims eventually decided to take down the mural last July 10, due to threats (to the safety of people involved in this activity) that were being sent anonymously.

The artwork, entitled “Every Bus is a Bus Full of Dreamers” was merely a peaceful expression of grief, loss and desire for change, in the form of a painting. It was meant to remind everyone of the value of life, and call for sympathy for the families of the departed.

Let us pray that the survivors and families of the departed remain strong as they face their many ordeals.











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