LA UNION, Philippines – The Land Transportation Regulatory and Franchising Board (LTFRB) has suspended seven units of Partas Bus line on the Pagudpud Ilocos Norte-Sampaloc Manila route following the company’s failure to submit to regulators the dash cam of the bus that figured in the Christmas dawn collision with a private jeepney, killing 20 people.
Partas submitted to LTFRB the CCTV inside the bus, indicating how strong was the impact of the head-on collision on a stretch of the national highway in Agoo town.
The CCTV showed one bus passenger hurled in front of the bus as a result of the impact.
While some of the injured came from the bus, all of the fatalities were from the jeepney, which was traveling to Manaoag, Pangasinan, for the Christmas rites.
In a telephone interview, Atty. Aileen Lizada, LTFRB board member/spokesperson, said the dash cam must be surrendered by Partas as it is crucial to the investigation.
“Under the law, there is a doctrine of last clear chance: sino yung may last chance para umiwas dun sa aksidente, at least yun ang magagamit sa investigation at makikita ng board kung nandyan yung dash cam, para makita natin who had the last clear chance to avoid the accident.”
[Under the doctrine of last chance, the one who had the final opportunity to avoid the accident is determined. We can use that in the investigation. The board can see, through the dash cam, who had the last clear chance to avoid the accident].”
Meanwhile, Partas Bus said it would help the families of the dead as well as the injured.
The jeep was a total wreck, as if it was just crumpled paper. One could barely see where the engine was located.
A section of the front part of the Partas bus that hit the jeepney was also severely damaged.
Based on investigation by the Agoo police, the bus was traveling north from Manila and the jeepney was traveling south to Manaoag, Pangasinan from Bauang, La Union at 3:30 a.m. of Christmas Day when the accident happened.
Police Chief Inspector Roy Villanueva, Agoo chief of police, explained that the jeepney apparently “encroached on the lane of the bus, dun na po yung [and that was their] place of collision.”
He said the jeepney was apparently traveling fast as seen from the impact. “Yung mga tao dun sa jeep, na-push silang lahat sa harap, nagkumpulan dun that indicates na yung speed niya ay mabilis talaga [The jeep passengers were all pushed in front, that’s where they were all bundled, indicating the speed at which it was traveling].”
Seven of the 20 fatalities were minors, all passengers of the jeep.
According to police investigation, the curved stretch of the road was far from where the collision happened, so the jeepney could not have been surprised by the sudden appearance of the bus. Probers said this indicates the jeepney may have overtaken another vehicle, but miscalculated the distance and did not have time to avoid the oncoming Partas bus.
The wake for one of the dead is being held at Barangay Pilar in Bauang town, and there are plans to hold the wake for the rest of the dead in the same place, since most of them are relatives.
Among the dead was the wife of Leodegario Cabagbag Jr., who had gone on a yearly pilgrimage to Manaoag every Christmas.
His youngest child was injured and under observation in hospital.
Fighting back tears, Cabagbag said, “Parang bumagsak ang langit dito sa amin. Dito sa aming barangay kasi magsisimba sila, tapos ganyan ang nangyari sa kanila. Kahit galit na galit ka, wala na, kahit anong gawin mo hindi na maibabalik ang buhay nila.
[It’s as if the heavens fell here. They all attend church in our barangay, and now this happened to them. No matter how angry one is at what happened, there’s nothing one can do. They’ll never return].”
For Gigi Cabero, the loss of both parents and one offspring was particularly painful.
The moments before the jeepney left with them was still fresh in her mind.
“When my parents were preparing their food, they were so happy. And my child who went with them even went back just before boarding the jeep, and hugged and kissed me. I guess that was goodbye.”
Most of the families of victims are angry at the bus driver Rodel Salac, who was unhurt and is now detained at the Agoo police station.
He declined to be interviewed.