Pedestrian group oppose house bill for fair accountability for road accidents

A pedestrian group is opposed to the passing of two proposed laws: House Bill 1987 and House Bill 899 which aim to create fair accountability for parties involved in road accidents. The bills hope to address the status quo wherein vehicle drivers are presumed at fault when involved with accidents with pedestrians.

This opposition was aired while the House of Representatives Committee on Transportation was going over initial deliberations of House Bill 1987 and House Bill 899.

“In practice, police officers arrest, detain, and charge drivers who only appear to be at fault but are not factually at fault,” said Rep. Marvey Mariño, principal author for HB 899.

Rep. Mariño likened the current situation to the story of Teddy Gotis. Gotis, a truck driver, was arrested after a minor, who was also intoxicated, was on a motorcycle that collided with his truck. The intoxicated minor died instantly. Gotis was immediately presumed to be at fault and was charged with “reckless imprudence resulting to homicide.” Rep. Mariño added that there are many Teddy Gotis who are innocent but were held accountable because of the wrong application of existing laws.

The Land Transportation Office, Philippine National Police – Highway Patrol Group, as well as various government and civic organizations were unanimous in supporting the said bills for fair accountability, but one.

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Transportation expert, Robert Siy, of the Move as One Coalition, said that they believe the bill “could move us in the wrong direction” and could also encourage reckless driving. “Instead of promoting road safety and responsible driving, it would encourage reckless driving and irresponsible behavior,” Siy said.

According to Siy, the said bills may absolve motorists from the responsibility to drive defensively. Case in point, says Siy, when a pedestrian crosses a street that doesn’t have a proper pedestrian lane and is hit by a vehicle, the driver would be less culpable. Siy argues that most of our inner-city streets don’t have pedestrian crossings. In addition, the vast majority of Filipinos are pedestrians.

“Cars [and motorcycles/ other types of vehicles] and car users do not own the roads. Roads are public assets to be shared by everyone. That principle is upheld by our national transport policy,” added Siy.

The committee will create a technical working group (TWG) to iron out both house bills before proceeding with the next deliberations.