End of the road for reckless drivers

End of the road for reckless drivers

/ 05:03 AM May 18, 2024

It took 13 years for justice to be served on two bus drivers involved in the road crash that claimed the life of veteran journalist Lourdes “Chit” Estella in 2011. Last week, Judge Ralph Lee of the Quezon City Regional Trial Court Branch 83 found Daniel Espinosa and Victor Ancheta guilty of reckless imprudence resulting in damage to property and homicide, and sentenced them to more than two years in prison.

The ruling noted that the bus “recklessly driven” by Ancheta crashed into the taxi that Estella was riding in along Commonwealth Avenue on May 13, 2011. The impact threw the cab into the path of the bus driven “at a fast pace” by Espinosa, which hit the taxi’s rear and caused fatal head injuries to Estella.

“Both accused had the last chance to avoid the collision had they exercised reasonable care and precaution in driving their respective buses. Both of the accused being public utility drivers should have primary concern not just for their safety, but also to their passengers and fellow motorists,” the court said.

On account of the bus drivers’ poor financial capacity, the court ordered the owners of Universal Guiding Star Bus Line Corp. and Nova Auto Transport Bus Corp. to pay more than P7 million in moral and exemplary damages to Estella’s family.


Small recompense

“Finally, a long-overdue decision that brings the two drivers and their bus companies to justice … Chit can finally rest in peace,’’ Estella’s husband, retired University of the Philippines (UP) professor Roland Simbulan, said of the conviction.

It is indeed an indictment of how the justice system in this country grinds exceedingly slow that Estella’s family had to wait more than a decade for some measure of relief and closure over her untimely and violent death.

Still, two years in jail seem like a disproportionate penalty and small recompense for the loss of a respected journalist and UP journalism professor—a fact acknowledged in the ruling when the judge paid tribute to Estella’s “immense contributions” to journalism and the academe.

But the court’s conviction of the two bus drivers and the financial culpability of the transport company owners should serve as a good precedent in prosecuting other reckless drivers who have turned Metro Manila roads into death highways, and should prompt authorities to effectively implement road safety laws and regulations.


Estella’s death and the many fatal road accidents led to the enactment of Republic Act No. 10916 or the Road Speed Limiter Act of 2016, which requires public utility vehicles (PUVs) to install devices that will control their speed to prevent road accidents.

‘Killer highway’

A year after that fatal crash, the Quezon City government also put up a Commonwealth Road Safety Marker on a sidewalk near the UP Ayala Technohub where Estella’s death occurred, to show “renewed commitment to make Quezon City a quality city, promote road safety, and save lives.”Yet all these laws and actions have hardly made our roads safer. Commonwealth Avenue, where Estella’s accident happened, has become known as a “killer highway” for the many lives lost to traffic accidents in the area. Recently, on April 29, three people died and 17 were injured when a passenger bus slammed into several vehicles on Commonwealth Avenue and Fairlane Street in Barangay Fairview. The bus driver claimed the brakes malfunctioned, the same lame excuse given by every other driver of passenger utility vehicles (PUV) involved in horrific crashes.


Road traffic deaths in the Philippines are rising, according to the World Health Organization (WHO). Citing data from the Philippine Statistics Authority, it said such deaths increased by 39 percent to 11,096 in 2021, from 7,938 in 2011. It also noted that road traffic injuries are the leading cause of death among Filipinos 15-29 years old, and are a major killer of children. The injuries cost about 2.6 percent of the country’s gross domestic product, the WHO added.

Strong message

“Road traffic injuries are a major yet often neglected public health issue. Deaths and injuries from road crashes are preventable, and all sectors have roles to play in promoting road safety,” WHO Representative to the Philippines Dr. Rui Paulo de Jesus said at the launch of the Philippine Road Safety Action Plan 2023-2028 last year.

The plan aims to reduce the number of road traffic deaths by 35 percent in 2028. The blueprint is a comprehensive one, though it remains to be seen how effectively it has been implemented by the government agencies involved given the unconscionably high death toll every year.

PUV operators and drivers, whom commuters trust with their lives each time they take public transport, must ensure that their vehicles are roadworthy and their drivers sober and alert at all times since they are a key sector in making our roads safer.

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Let the court’s conviction of Estella’s killers send a strong message that reckless drivers and negligent operators alike will be held accountable for having so little regard for people’s lives.

TAGS: drivers, opinion

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