Independent bloc wants LTFRB chief out

Posted at 02/11/2014 8:24 AM | Updated as of 02/11/2014 8:24 AM

MANILA -- The House independent bloc on Monday called for the resignation of Land Transportation Franchising and Regulatory Board (LTFRB) Chairman Winston Ginez, following the Florida bus plunge in Bontoc that killed 14 people, including social advocate Tado Jimenez.

Abakada party-list Rep. Jonathan dela Cruz said Ginez is not doing his job, noting that the LTFRB chief does not know how many franchises has been issued.

He said Ginez should take responsibility for the bus accidents in Paranaque City as well as Bontoc, Mountain Province.

"There is no franchise system in place right now in the Philippines, there is none,” he said.

“We don’t want to have an accident every week, and then his only response is to suspend the bus company… that is not a response! We don’t have that kind of system that will promote and protect our commuters… that is a big, big problem, and if he does not resign immediately he should at least accept responsibilities for these things,” he added.

The independent bloc also wants an audit of LTFRB officials, citing that the recent accident "is the second major accident in just several months, the other being the fall from the Skyway of a Don Mariano bus."

"We want to know, among others, how often land transport officials inspect buses and the premises of their operators; how many, if any, are the public transport companies which have been deemed unsafe for travel and what action has been done against these firms," Leyte Rep. Martin Romualdez said in a statement.

Meanwhile, House Committee on Transportation Chairman Cesar Sarmiento said they will be including the Florida bus crash in their ongoing investigation of bus accidents in the country.

The panel is already investigating the Don Mariano Skyway bus crash from last December, he said.

“We want to find out the steps of agencies to ensure safety and roadworthiness. Maraming factors na dapat i-consider. ‘Yung road worthiness, every year naman may mandatory requirement of registration. Registration is not allowed if vehicles are not road worthy,” Sarmiento said.

He added that it would be better if government implements a motor vehicle inspection system, which is a machine- and computer-assisted way of determining the road worthiness of buses. Right now, he said buses are inspected for roadworthiness only through a visual inspection.

Sarmiento also said over-speeding can be aggravated by inherent defects in the buses and make accidents bound to happen, based on the Don Mariano bus crash.

Sarmiento wants to amend the Motor Vehicle Users Charge law to allow the use of MVUC funds in responding to accidents, noting that most of the victims of road accidents are motorists who paid the MVUC.

In the last congressional hearing on the Don Mariano case, some lawmakers raised questions on the fairness of the immediate cancellation of the company’s franchise, since the accident was only caused by one driver.

Sarmiento wants the LTFRB to be more proactive in cracking down on colorum buses, noting that the bus unit from the Florida bus crash can be considered colorum. He said that based on news accounts, the bus belonged to another company before it came under Florida, which should not have happened without the approval of the LTFRB.

“That can be avoided by fielding personnel sa terminals before the bus leaves. I-require ang personnel to present documents to determine if colorum ito. In that case, LTFRB has been remiss in trying to detect colorum buses, which have been with us for so long a time. We cannot say what would be the sanctions the committee will recommend, as we’re still conducting an investigation. We have to include the Florida accident in our future hearings.”

The investigation is being handled by a technical working group.

In the meantime, Sarmiento batted for a bill creating a National Transportation Safety Board, which will be charged to solely investigate all transportation incidents. Patterned after a US agency of the same name, the board will integrate the investigative functions currently being undertaken by different agencies in the transport sector.