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Solon calls for creation of transport safety board

Thursday, 22 March 2018 00:00 Published in Metro

Following the tragic Occidental Mindoro bus crash, Sen. Grace Poe  yesterday highlighted the need for the creation of a National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB), saying such an agency could have prevented similar recurring transportation-related accidents.
At least 19 people died while 21 others were hurt after a Dimple Star bus hit a bridge railing and fell into a cliff in Sablayan town, Occidental Mindoro province Tuesday evening.
“As we express our deepest sympathies to the family of the Mindoro bus crash victims, we are enraged with the loss of lives due to events that could have been prevented,” Poe said in an interview.
“This recent incident reminded us once again about how public transportation in the country can be so dangerous,” she said.
Poe, the chairman of the Senate committee on public services, noted that road accidents had become the fourth or fifth leading cause of deaths among Filipinos.
In 2014, the Philippine Statistics Authority reported that accidents, mostly vehicular, had claimed the lives of 43,853 Filipinos.
Poe said the list of tragic road accidents and their casualties continues to increase because vehicles that are not roadworthy are still allowed to ply the roads, noting that there were already previous tragic accidents involving Dimple Star bus.
“Hindi natin dapat ipagwalangbahala ito. Kailangan natin talaga ng National Transportation Safety Board (We should not ignore this. We really need a National Transportation Safety Board),” Poe said.
Poe, who is pushing the creation of the NTSB in the Senate, called on her counterparts at the House of Representatives to help in passing the bill.
“Ang importante dito hindi lamang yung imbestigasyon kung bakit nangyari kundi yung prevention ng mga buses na ganito (What is important here is not only the investigation on why these happened but preventing these buses from operating),” she said.
“The missing link in these accident prevention measures is the NTSB. There is a jumble of transport agencies, but there is no ‘go-to agency’ that will be able to unravel and explain major transportation accidents,” she added.
Poe said the NTSB would be solely responsible for looking into transportation-related recurring accidents —including sea, air, land and railway—and determining their causes.
“There is a general pattern to be perceived in each of the accidents, and unless we fail to piece them together, they will occur. This can be done by an NTSB which will be the transportation safety ombudsman who can raise the alarm on accidents waiting to happen,” Poe said.                

Former Supreme Court Chief Justice Reynato Puno, chairman of the Consultative Committee (con-com), which is tasked to review the 1987 Constitution, yesterday said the panel will be blind to any political personalities in crafting measures that affect politicians and dynasties, even President Duterte himself.
It was Duterte who formed the 20-member con-com, which is composed of lawyers, academics and other experts to draft a new charter that will be submitted to Congress for approval.
Presidential spokesman Harry Roque earlier said Duterte does not think that political dynasties were wrong and would rather leave it to the people to vote for whom they want in office.
The President has two children who have been elected in office: Sara Duterte-Carpio who is mayor of Davao City and Paolo, who was Davao City vice mayor until he resigned in December last year.
Last week, con-com voted to prohibit second-degree relatives from succeeding each other in office and limiting the number of positions they can hold to only two — one national and one regional or local, under the federal system of government.
Con-com member Rueben Canoy also pointed out that the “regulated” prohibition would affect Duterte.
“It is ironic that the person who created this committee will be the first victim of our provision,” Canoy said.
Duterte has repeatedly said that he would step down once a new Constitution establishing a federal form of government is approved.
Greater interest of the people
At a press conference at the Philippine International Convention Center (PICC), Puno said that Duterte himself told the con-com to do what is best for the people.
“The Executive Order as well as the instructions given to the committee are to the effect that the committee is an independent body and the President simply told the members to do what they think is for the best of the people, so that is what we are doing,” Puno told reporters.
“We are not focusing on any particular person or entity. We are doing this for the greater interest of the people,” he added.
Asked if Duterte needed to specifically support the anti-political-dynasty provisions, Puno said that once the draft of the new Constitution is finalized, it will be forwarded to the President.
Personality blind
Puno further said that the con-com members wear blinders as they review the Constitution.
“We are looking at the system as a whole and as I said, when we consider or study or propose to amend or revise some provisions of the Constitution, our mind will be focused on how to improve the system.”
“In other words, our stance is always to be personality blind. When we think of the system we don’t think of a particular person,” Puno said.
“If we amend, strengthen the provisions of the Constitution, we’ll not be doing this for any particular person,” he added.
Asked what con-com would do if the Congress, as a constituent assembly, rejects or waters down the anti-dynasty provisions, Puno said: “We will cross that bridge when we reach it.”
Puno, however, said that the body was ready to defend the proposed new Constitution before both chambers of the Congress.
Puno earlier described the anti-political dynasty provision as “sine qua non” or a prerequisite the adoption of a federal-presidential system.”
“If you adopt a federal system, it essentially means that you will be giving a lot of powers to constituent units, states or regions or provinces and municipalities. Right now, if you have these powers cornered by these political dynasties, and if you federalize, you will not only be giving them these powers, you will be giving them what is the equivalent of sovereign powers. How can you do that without first regulating political dynasties?” Puno said.
Oppositors of Federalism, including Former Supreme Court Chief Justice Hilario Davide, argued that one of his main issues is that Federalism will lead to greater control by political dynasties.
Oppositors free to attend
Puno said that individuals and groups opposing Cha-cha may submit their proposals or attend the con-com’s en banc meetings.
“They (oppositors) are free to submit their papers and they are free to appear before this committee,” Puno said.
“More or less we know the objections of those who are opposed to charter change especially those who are opposed to the shift to Federalism,” he added.
Puno made the remark when asked for a reaction to Vice President Leni Robredo’s suggestion for con-com to include anti-Federalism groups in its deliberations.
He, however, said that it would be best for the con-com to first finish its draft, which will be the basis for discussion. 

The Commission on Elections Comelec) on Tuesday reiterated that it will continue to prepare for the Barangay and Sangguniang Kabataan Elections (BSKE) set for May 14, unless a law postponing the polls is passed.
“Without a law postponing it, the BSKE2018 must continue to be considered a ‘go,’” the poll body official added.
Jimenez made the statement after the House of Representatives on Monday passed on the third and final reading the bill postponing the polls to October this year.
“While this move undoubtedly brings us one step closer to a third postponement of the 2018 Barangay and Sangguniang Kabataan Elections, the Comelec will continue with the work of preparing for polls,” Jimenez said.
The village and youth polls was originally scheduled on October 31, 2016. It was postponed to October 23, 2017 and then to May 14, 2018.
Senate President Aquilino Pimentel III earlier said the postponement of the barangay and SK elections has no chance of passing in the Senate.
Meanwhile, the Parish Pastoral Council for Responsible Voting opposed the move to postpone anew the polls.
“The renewed congressional initiative after two postponements is fast becoming a habit and it is not good for our country that proclaims itself as ‘democratic and republican’ (Section 1, Article 1, The 1987 Constitution),” the church-based election watchdog group said in a statement. 


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