Last January 7, Philippine Coast Guard member Richard Padua, resident of Taguig, married with one four year old child, met his gruesome and untimely demise caused by the very same Victory Liner bus he boarded from Olongapo to Pangasinan. The story hit the local tabloids early this month and for a backgrounder on the story, you can visit http://bomboradyo.com/index.php/news/latest-news/35486-miyembro-ng-pcg-patay-matapos-mahagip-ng-bus-sa-pangasinan. Although Victory Liner Inc. promised to shoulder the expenses for the wake and burial of the victim, their promises were not acted on and the family of the victim is left without any feedback from the culprit company. I am writing this article to air the side of the Padua family about what happened; to give the reading public more information about the evidence that were not made available for the public to peruse, and to open for discussion the lessons we (including operators of public transportation) can learn from behind this tragedy and injustice.
When the Padua family spoke with the police station officers who covered the investigation, they were told that the Victory Liner driver and conductor claimed that Richard Padua was a “balut vendor” who decided to jump out of their moving bus which resulted into the tragic accident. The bus driver reportedly testified that he did not notice Richard Padua jump out of his bus and his testimony was reportedly supported by the bus conductor and a bus company inspector who happened to be in the bus at that time. The police reportedly obtained a testimony of another passenger who supported the claims of the three Victory Liner employees. Since the driver’s claims are corroborated by three people, is it then reasonable to say that Richard Padua, a “balut vendor”, jumped out of the moving bus and that Victory Liner Inc. should not be held liable for the tragic accident?
Any thinking person worth his salt should weigh all the evidence. In this case, testimonial evidence is not the end-all-be-all. The physical evidence need to be looked at as well in order to see if the testimonies of the four “witnesses” hold any water.
The accident occurred at Richard Padua’s final destination (Sison, Pangasinan). After the incident, Richard’s left side of the body was heavily damaged; the kind of damage that is consistent with damage sustained from force and friction after being dragged and trampled on by a heavy moving body or object. The strap located in the upper section of Richard’s backpack shows tears consistent with tears caused by force exerted to pull away from being stuck. There were also no “balut” found within the immediate scene of the accident, nor in Richard’s possession.
Based on the physical evidence, let us revisit the statement and the testimonies of the Victory Liner employees and the one passenger “witness”.
Was the driver’s claim and the witnesses’ testimony that Richard Padua was a “balut vendor” correct? No! During the time of the accident they had no knowledge that Richard was a member of the Philippine Coast Guard. Did they have reason to believe that Richard was a “balut” vendor? No! Richard did not have any “balut merchandise” in his possession and no “balut” meant to be sold were present at the scene of the accident. Does being a “balut” vendor even matter in this case? I do not think so.
Was the driver’s claim and the witnesses’ testimony that Richard Padua jumped out of the moving bus correct? This is a trickier one to answer but I submit that it does not matter heavily on this case whether Richard indeed jumped or not to establish culpability of the driver and the bus company. However, if we look at the physical evidence, it is more reasonable to believe that Richard asked the driver to stop so that he can disembark from the bus at his final destination in Sison, Pangasinan. The only way Richard could have disembarked from the bus was through the door closest to the driver (typical of many airconditioned province-route buses). When he disembarked from the bus his backpack must have gotten stuck when the driver closed the bus door. Realizing his situation, Richard probably attempted to forcibly pull his backpack from being stuck or another explanation is that the tear in the backpack was caused by being stuck as Richard’s body was dragged by the moving bus. These explanations seem to fit the physical evidence well.
So now we come to the questions regarding culpability. Even if we grant the witnesses’ statement corroborating the driver’s claim that Richard jumped out of the moving bus, isn’t it the bus company’s policy to ensure the safety of its passengers? Didn’t the driver, the conductor, and even the inspector make sure that their passenger was safely out of the bus before the bus door was closed and before it started moving? The driver claimed that he didn’t notice Richard jump out of the moving bus. Somehow this doesn’t make sense because wouldn’t he have opened the door of the bus first before Richard could disembark? This accident seems to be the result of either negligence or incompetence or even both! The claim of the driver seems to touch perjury and the corroborating statements of the other Victory Liner employees seems questionable if we consider the factor of “conflict of interest”. As for the passenger witness, how can that witness attest to the fact that Richard jumped out of the moving bus without the bus driver’s knowledge given the fact that the door to disembark the bus is immediately on the right side of the driver’s and that the driver needed to open the door of the bus before anyone can disembark? Even if we grant that Richard did jump out of the bus after the bus pulled over, there is no way the witness can attest that the Victory Liner employees in the bus exercised all due diligence to ensure the safety of passenger Richard Padua.
Now, should the culpability be limited to the involved driver and not extend to the bus company? The Philippine Law on Torts and Damages, Article 2180, mandates that the employers are also responsible for the negligence of their employees in the performance of their duties. The rationale for this rule is as follows:
“What has emerged as the modern justification for vicarious liability is a rule of policy, a deliberate allocation of a risk. The losses caused by the torts of employees, which as a practical matter are sure to occur in the conduct of the employers enterprise, are placed upon that enterprise itself, as a required cost of doing business. They are placed upon the employer because, having engaged in an enterprise, which will on the basis of all past experience involve harm to others through the tort of employees, and sought to profit by it, it is just that he, rather than the innocent injured plaintiff, should bear them; and because he is better able to absorb them and to distribute them, through prices, rates or liability insurance, to the public, and so to shift them to society, to the community at large. Added to this is the makeweight argument that an employer who is held strictly liable is under the greatest incentive to be careful in the selection, instruction and supervision of his servants, and to take every precaution to see that the enterprise is conducted safely.”
Of course, Victory Liner Inc. may invoke a defense of having exercised due diligence in order to be relieved of the responsibility. The case for Pestao vs. Sumayang on December 2000 (G.R. No. 139875) tells that employers may be relieved of responsibility for the negligent acts of their employees acting within the scope of their assigned task only if they can show that they observed all the diligence of a good father of a family to prevent damage. The Pestao vs Sumayang case ruled that the employer involved in that case failed to show due diligence. The scenario is very similar to the case with Richard Padua’s accident as there is no way Victory Liner could say that due diligence was exercised by putting in place inspectors who monitor the performance of its drivers at random places along the route. In the Pestao vs Sumayang case, the defendant employer used this defense but was junked by the Court. How much more weight can this defense hold in the case of Richard Padua’s accident when one of the witnesses who corroborated the driver’s claim was a Victory Liner inspector present at the time and scene of the accident? Obviously the presence of an inspector there and then was not enough to ensure and monitor the performance of the driver!
The Padua family tells that the expense for Richard’s wake and burial was not shouldered by Victory Liner Inc and they also say that the company has not provided them any updates or any feedback. When dealing with the media, Victory Liner Inc., as part of damage control, makes promises to show that it cares. However, it is one thing to say that they care; it is another to actually care. Last I heard, this practice that Victory Liner Inc. is engaging in is called “lip service”. If the victim was as prominent as someone like a Jaime Zobel or even a Kris Aquino, would Victory Liner Inc. still engage in lip service? I wonder.
The Padua family does not need lip service. Richard was a young poor public servant who was the breadwinner of his family. He left behind a wife and a four year old child who now have no one else to depend on except each other because of the negligence and incompetence of Victory Liner Inc. I hope through this article people would realize the pain of the Padua family, the physical evidence to consider, the injustice of engaging in mere lip service by Victory Liner Inc., and the reasons why Victory Liner Inc. must be held liable for the tragedy.
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