People first, not garbage
PERSPECTIVE - Cherry Piquero-Ballescas (The Freeman) - July 27, 2019 - 12:00am

Reacting to our article about the dead and injured children transported on a dump truck on the way to an athletic meet, a reader, Mr. Nick Haagsma, noted that my observations lacked one critical item. He wrote: “it is illegal to ride in the back of open vehicles. This is the law in the Philippines, unfortunately a law that seems to be readily overlooked and has cost hundreds, if not thousands of lives through similar accidents over the years. Poorly trained drivers, along with poorly maintained vehicles just add to the carnage. The solution would appear simple. Just enforce the law.”

He continued: “If the dept. of Education requested the dump truck as reported, then they are complicit in the death of these innocents, and ought to be prosecuted. They should be aware it is illegal to transport people in this way. Please follow through and ask the tough questions. Who requested it, who authorized it, and why are they not held accountable?”

I have relayed Sir Nick’s suggestion for a follow-up report for details about the use of the dump truck. To recall, Mayor Merlou Derama was reported to have said that “the teachers requested to use the mini dump truck to transport the students for the meet. He added it was the usual procedure, since there was no other vehicle available for the upland barangay students.”

Was there a written request letter to the mayor? Did the teachers really specifically request for the use of a dump truck to transport the students? Or did the teachers request for the use of “a vehicle” for the students’ transport? Who finally authorized the use of the dump truck to be used for the students?

What did Mayor Merlou Derama mean that “it was the usual procedure, since there was no other vehicle available for the upland barangay students?”

Did the mayor mean 1.) The teachers’ vehicle request for students was standard, or 2.) The teachers’ request for the use of dump trucks for students was standard because there was no other vehicle available for the upland barangay students, or, 3.) The teachers’ request for student use was standard but the LGU, (the mayor’s office?) could only provide a dump truck, as there was no other vehicle available for the students’ transport?

Tracing that request and who finally decided for the dump truck to be used for the students’ transport is crucial in ascertaining who is accountable for the sad accident that killed and injured the students. May justice be given to the dead and injured children and their families!

Another reader asked: “How can any barangay, town or city have million peso-worth dump trucks for garbage but no school bus, ambulance, or decent public transport for the people- for students and for PWDs especially?”

How can officials allot millions as budget for garbage collection and disposal instead of budget for the use and service of their constituents? Why are people not prioritized, or given as much huge budget as garbage?

Why don’t officials exert their political will and require the people to segregate their waste and save millions instead?

Educating and strictly enforcing the law for proper garbage management, collection and disposal by individuals, households, establishments, and communities will be a better sustainable option, can save millions for alternative public welfare services, result in better health for all, cleaner air and environment, and leave more lands for productive use, for homes for the homeless, farms for the producers!

No more, please, to wasteful millions for garbage collection and disposal, landfills, dumpsites, and waste-to-energy schemes!

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