[Statement] Survivors and Families of the Casualties of the February 7, 2014 GV Florida Bus Crash in Bontoc

PRESS STATEMENT
Survivors and Families of the Casualties of the February 7, 2014 GV Florida Bus Crash in Bontoc
Statement delivered on June 30, 2014, Conspiracy, Visayas Avenue, Quezon City

Survivors and Families of the Casualties of the February 7, 2014 GV Florida Bus Crash in Bontoc. Photo from DAKILA

Survivors and Families of the Casualties of the February 7, 2014 GV Florida Bus Crash in Bontoc. Photo from DAKILA

Good morning.

I am Stella Embile, one of the survivors of the GV Florida bus crash in Bontoc last February 7, 2014.

Present today with me are:
Lei Jimenez, wife of Tado Jimenez
Chat Baranda, wife of Don Baranda
Mariel Baja, sister of Gerard Baja
Chris Cabardo, brother of Mylo Cabardo
and
Dino, Paeng, Charley, survivors.

Not present today are:
Alex Loring
Ana Cruz
Andrew David Sicam
Anne Martina Adriana Van De Ven
Arvin “Tado” Jimenez
Christian “Mylo” Cabardo
Emily Gentalian
Gerald Baja
Giovanni “Bam” Morillo
Johnathan Patulot
Katrina Gozos
Leah Reyes
Marcial “Don” Baranda Jr.
Natividad Ngawa
Rosalina Reyes

They are not here today because the management of GV Florida Transport Incorporated did not do their job.

All of you know what happened in Bontoc last February 7.  When GV Florida offered their services to us, the riding public, we trusted that we will be safe; that we will be reaching our destination.  We did not reach our destination.  Fifteen (15) of us died, 32 of us hurt, many of us requiring major surgeries.

We do not want to call the incident an accident.  Accidents are unavoidable; what happened was preventable.  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.

We laud the 6 months suspension handed by LTFRB to GV Florida.  That will make GV Florida realize the gravity of their fault and responsibility.  Also, with those 6 months, that can give GV Florida ample time to fix all of their buses, training their drivers on what to do during emergency cases, and put into order the legalities of their operation.

We have to remind everyone that the GV Florida bus that we took from Manila to Bondoc, unknown to us, used a license plate registered under Mt. Province Cable Tours and utilized engine and chassis that were registered to Dagupan Bus Company and that GV Florida actually didn’t have proper authorization from LTFRB to operate that route.

We would like everyone to know that what we actually dream for GV Florida to be a model bus company considering what had happened.  We actually had thoughts that, considering the gravity of what happened, GV Florida will make drastic changes and improvement to assure the riding public that what happened will not happen again.  And that eventually other bus companies will follow their lead.  However, 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.

Fifteen (15) of us are now dead.

Lei Jimenez is left without a husband, their daughters without a father.  The same goes for the Chat Baranda and her children; and for Abby Sicam and her sons.  The parents of Bam, Gerard, and Mylo are now suddenly one child less.

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.

For some of the survivors, we acknowledge that GV Florida has been paying for our medical expenses.  However, we are also speaking now not just as GV Florida bus victims but as representatives of the riding public.  We do not want what happen to happen again.  Lives were lost. Lives were drastically changed.  Let’s not make a senseless, preventable event stay a meaningless thing.  We’re speaking up because we all deserve better.

For us ordinary, non-lawyer Filipinos, the operation of GV Florida was suspended because of irregularities in their practices (changing of plates, operating without proper authority), poor maintenance of their buses, and because they are the ones responsible for the death of its passengers.

What would make us happy with the lifting of the suspension is if we know that their buses are safe and that all victims have received reparations for their losses.   It is surprising every time we hear that there are still victims who have not heard from the management of GV Florida.  [The case of Karina Javier, Annemiek Verwegen, Chat Baranda, Mariel Baja.]

We, survivors and family of the casualties, are already on our road recovery from our loses, but the sudden lifting of the suspension by the Court of Appeals and with us not seeing any reform on the part of GV Florida angers us, it frustrates us, it brings back all the hurt that we felt.  It makes us feel like our lives do not matter; like lives do not matter.

The riding public may not understand what we are crying for. And that is because it did not happen to them.  Thank God it did not happen to you.  Support us because we don’t want it to happen to you or to any of your loved ones.

We hope that LTFRB will file a motion for reconsideration or appeal to the highest court.  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.

To the management of GV Florida, if you feel we are misinterpreting you, approach us.  Initiate discussions with us.  You owe us.

To GV Florida and all bus companies, please do your responsibilities in the right and proper way.  Public transport is a public trust.

To our government, violation and lax implementation of laws governing public transportation poses a grave threat to the riding public. The tragedy will remain senseless unless genuine reforms are instituted in our Philippine Transport System.

To the Filipino public, let us put an end to incidents of jeeps and buses falling off ravines and skyways. We do not want what happened to us to happen to you or your loved ones. And we can only stop this from happening again if we remain vigilant as a people, as a nation.

-End-

Families and Friends of Victims of the GV Florida Bus Crash will hold a street mural activity on July 6, Sunday, at 1pm -6pm in front of the GV Florida Bus Station in Sampaloc to commemorate the 5th month since the bus crash happened last February 7.

The street mural with the theme on road safety will be participated by friends, families, colleagues and supporters of the victims. We invite the Filipino public to participate and join the cause.

At 4pm that day, the mural panel painted with faces of those who died in the bus crash will be installed again for the Filipino public to see. The mural painted last June 6 to commemorate the 4th month since the bus crash with the faces of those who perished was “stolen” 3 days after it was installed.

The activity on July 7 will culminate with a mass and a candle lighting ceremony at around 6pm in remembrance of the 15 people who died in the Florida Bus Crash and to express the continuing call for justice.

For more information, contact 09151780240

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