Bus crash survivors: Don’t let GV Florida get off scott-free

MANILA, Philippines – Almost 5 months after a deadly crash took the lives of 15 passengers on board a GV Florida bus in the Mountain Province, families and friends of the victims decried a court decision that made them “feel like lives do not matter.”

On Monday, June 30, survivors and loved ones of of the victims called on the Land Transportation Franchising and Regulatory Board (LTFRB) to question a Court of Appeals (CA) decision that overturned the board’s decision to suspend the erring bus company.

Fifteen people died on February 7, when a GV Florida bus fell into a ravine in Bontoc, Mountain Province. A month after the incident, the LTFRB found that faulty brakes were to blame for the crash. The LTFRB suspended all 188 buses of GV Florida for 6 months.

However, in a June 26 decision, the CA lifted the suspension order on 186 units of GV Florida, ruling that the LTFRB had committed grave abuse of discretion when if made an “illegal” order “without any factual and legal bases in the absolute absence of a violation or wrong committed.”

The CA said GV Florida was punished for a “non-existing violation.”

The survivors slammed the CA decision: “We do not believe that the suspension was ‘a gross and blatant violation of administrative due process.’ And how can there be an ‘absolute absence of a violation or wrong committed,’ when people lost their lives because of GV Florida’s negligence.”

Wrong plate, wrong bus

Faulty breaks weren’t the only thing wrong with the bus that crashed. The LTFRB’s investigation also revealed that the bus was still a “private” vehicle registered with the Dagupan Bus Company. The plate number that was used, meanwhile, turned out to be under Mountain Province Cable tours.

“If GV Florida did its due diligence in maintaining their buses in good condition, this would not have happened: hindi kami nawalan ng mahal sa buhay, hindi kami naoperahan at kailangang magpagaling, at hindi rin naming kailangang maalaala ng paulit-ulit yung trayedyang sinapit namin,” the survivors said in a statement.

(We would not have lost loved ones, we would not have had to undergo surgery and recovery, and we would not have to relive the memory of that day.)

Accounts from survivors paint a harrowing picture. One Dutch traveller told Rappler the bus still managed to maneuver through 3 or 4 corners before it fell into the ravine. Annemiek Verwegen, a backpacker from the Netherlands, survived the crash but lost her friend Anne van de Ven.

Verwegen is one of several survivors who have yet to hear from any GV Florida representative. Some survivors, the group said, had gotten financial assistance from the company.

Same old, same old

The survivors expressed dismay over the bus company’s actions after the suspension: “During the last 3 months, what we saw are buses changing colors and calling the same old GV Florida buses by different names. And 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.”

Stella Embile, one of the survivors, read the statement in behalf of other victims. “I still cannot move my arms well. I have a metal plate on my left shoulder. Among us survivors, we had operations in the skull, spine, arms, and legs,” she said.

The survivors also challenged GV Florida to “initiate discussions” with the group. “Please do your responsibilities in the right and proper way. Public transport is a public trust.” – Rappler.com