Notorious bus lines have lost their social license to operate

Don Mariano Transit Corp accident

Public transportation is a public good, and therefore should not be left to untrammeled markets to regulate.

That is in effect what has happened under our regulatory regime since the 1980s, as I have argued before.

The recent tragedy involving Don Mariano bus line which led to the death of 22 commuters is a grim reminder of the need to reform our public transport franchising system. Our bus lines are putting the riding public at risk with their reckless behaviour. They are becoming instruments of mass destruction, rather than mass transit. And the international media has started to take notice, which not only puts lives, but jobs at risk, due to the impact on tourism.

It is time to revoke the licenses of these transport operators who have continued to disregard traffic rules, like speed limits on skyways, in the pursuit of profit. They have already lost their social license to operate, it is time to revoke their legal right to do so. To allow them and the industry to continue down this road of destruction is just outright madness.

Our public regulator, the LTFRB must take a more proactive stance. They have already stated their intention to cull bus lines through natural attrition because of the over-servicing of certain routes, which along with the boundary system applied by bus lines, has led to the dangerous habits of drivers.

It is time for LTFRB to realise that this policy is irrational. We cannot wait for franchises to expire before taking action. Bus operators should be suspended in the first instance. Their entire fleet must be grounded until they are able to prove that they have dealt with safety concerns, either by changing their incentive package to drivers, or through driver re-education programs to avoid recidivism.

Once their franchise comes up for renewal, the number of traffic violations and accidents leading to injury and death must be taken into account. Operators who persistently violate traffic rules and place the public (both commuters and pedestrians) at risk, must not have their licenses renewed. It is time for the public transport regulator to show some resolve in dealing with this problem.


Doy Santos aka The Cusp

Doy Santos is an international development consultant who shuttles between Australia and the Philippines. He maintains a blog called The Cusp: A discussion of new thinking, new schools of thought and fresh ideas on public policy ( and tweets as @thecusponline. He holds a Master in Development Economics from the University of the Philippines and an MS in Public Policy from Carnegie Mellon University.

  • UPnnGrd

    Pass simple laws, then enforce. Like this:

    Commercial Drivers
    ………….the rules are stricter for drivers of commercial vehicles:

    Commercial drivers will lose their commercial driver license (CDL) for one year the first time they are convicted of driving while under the influence of alcohol or drugs, leaving the scene of an accident in which they were involved while driving their commercial motor vehicle (CMV), or using their commercial vehicle to commit a felony.

    Hazmat accidents: If a commercial driver commits any of these offenses while driving a commercial vehicle with a hazardous materials placard, their CDL will be pulled for three years or for life.

    Traffic violations: Your CDL will be suspended for 60 days if you have two serious traffic violations involving a CMV in two years.

    BAC: Driving a CMV with a blood alcohol concentration of only .04% or more will result in your license being suspended for one year.

    —*** suspended CDL —-> can’t work.

  • manuelbuencamino

    It’s the boundary system. It rewards rat race behavior. Shift to salary system and absolutely no bonuses associated with earnings. Just give bonuses for no accidents, no traffic violations, clean and well-maintained buses, and all that.

    Aside from the boundary system one has to prohibit the kabit system. Many bus owners only make kabit their buses to franchise holders.

    Also many bus owners and some franchise holders are former military or police, sometimes its in their names, sometimes in the name of relatives. One notorious franchise owner was a top policeman surnamed Maganto who used to head a traffic division.

    • Emmanuel Doy Santos

      Whatever the cause suspending the fleet pending a thorough investigation and requiring the operator to comply with new regulations must be the first order of the day. You mention prominent figures. I wonder how different the govt response would be if a politician’s son perished in the accident.

      • baycas

        Certainly that politico will not let this pass without a howl.

      • manuelbuencamino

        Suspension will give us respite from accidents. In the end we have to get rid of boundary, the stimulus of rat race driving, and replace it with salary and maximum daily working hours.

        • Emmanuel Doy Santos

          In effect, government would be intervening in the industrial relations of one sector of the economy, by banning the boundary system. So it would apply to all operators, not just the one in question. In effect, what we need is a review of existing policy to affirm whether such a shift is necessary and sufficient.

          • manuelbuencamino

            Yes, it would apply to all public transportation. Jeepney owners rent out their jeeps to drivers who also carry the cost of fuel. But it’s boundary by another name. We need to review our whole way of thinking about public transportation and redraw policies from there. Under the current system we don’t only encourage speeding and every man for himself behavior we are also encouraging traffic jams even during non rush hours because public transport vehicles hog loading/unloading areas waiting for passengers. So you have buses in EDSA in front of the malls spilling over two or three lanes. Same thing with jeepneys. And it’s not a simple matter of law enforcement because what you have are a few cops at those stops policing tens of buses/jeepneys whose drivers and conductors are trying to meet boundary so they can bring home something. And the cops can collect parking fees from drivers and conductors who have no choice but to pay. What do they do in other crowded cities?

  • baycas

    Anthony Taberna blamed HUMAN ERROR a number of times in his segment “Punto por Punto” this morning…

    We might as well study HUMAN FACTORS then…

    Human factors…especially in accident investigations:

    Introduction to human factors

    Reducing error and influencing behaviour (HSG48) is the key document in understanding HSE’s approach to human factors. It gives a simple introduction to generic industry guidance on human factors, which it defines as:

    “Human factors refer to environmental, organisational and job factors, and human and individual characteristics, which influence behaviour at work in a way which can affect health and safety”

    This definition includes three interrelated aspects that must be considered: the job, the individual and the organisation:

    The job: including areas such as the nature of the task, workload, the working environment, the design of displays and controls, and the role of procedures. Tasks should be designed in accordance with ergonomic principles to take account of both human limitations and strengths. This includes matching the job to the physical and the mental strengths and limitations of people. Mental aspects would include perceptual, attentional and decision making requirements.

    The individual: including his/her competence, skills, personality, attitude, and risk perception. Individual characteristics influence behaviour in complex ways. Some characteristics such as personality are fixed; others such as skills and attitudes may be changed or enhanced.

    The organisation: including work patterns, the culture of the workplace, resources, communications, leadership and so on. Such factors are often overlooked during the design of jobs but have a significant influence on individual and group behaviour.

    In other words, human factors is concerned with what people are being asked to do (the task and its characteristics), who is doing it (the individual and their competence) and where they are working (the organisation and its attributes), all of which are influenced by the wider societal concern, both local and national.

    Human factors interventions will not be effective if they consider these aspects in isolation. The scope of what we mean by human factors includes organisational systems and is considerably broader than traditional views of human factors/ergonomics. Human factors can, and should, be included within a good safety management system and so can be examined in a similar way to any other risk control system.

    After all, we’re only humans…born to make mistakes…

    (hmm…brings back lyrics of a song…)

    • Emmanuel Doy Santos

      Baycas, what about the report that drivers of the bus line have to work 19 hours a day to meet their quota? People may make mistakes, but they are more likely to make them if they are overworked, or if they are rushing, or if equipment is poorly maintained, or staff are poorly trained.

      • baycas


        Thanks. The beauty in understanding human factors is that one needs to just “change the condition under which humans work because we cannot change human condition” as we are prone to commit unintentional mistakes. (Please read James Reason. A sample here: )

        Overworked? Solve it by reducing the working hours to acceptable levels. I believe DOLE already has an answer to this.

        Rushing? Constrain the top speed of the vehicle by using speed limiter or “governor”.

        Racing? Fixed pay will help a lot in removing the disastrous quota system. DOLE also took care of this but was not implemented.

        Bad equipments and poorly trained staff? Quality and safety management is badly needed here but human factors (job, individual, and organization taken into consideration) will also play a role.

        Of course, it is really not that simple especially if financial constraints may be involved in a profit-oriented industry. However, in accident investigations, there must be a system-focused analysis rather than zeroing in on individual errors (though there must still be accountability, e.g., intentional drug use). Preventive measures by changing into or creating a better system has been proven in the past to be fruitful.

        • Emmanuel Doy Santos

          So my point is for the fleet to be grounded until the company has satisfactorily addressed these system failures (aka safety concerns).

          • baycas


            In fact, from the looks of it, I believe the franchise must be revoked due to a number of violations…which are, I think, intentional in nature.

            Btw, there is another organizational culture that needs to be addressed because the Lim family who owns Don Mariano, Admiral Transport, Nova, etc…the notorious bus companies…is likely to have political connections, probably in all three branches of government.

          • Emmanuel Doy Santos

            That is the crux of the problem. This is why I suggest a suspension, not an outright cancellation of franchise. If they can address the safety concerns in a week, then they could be allowed to resume operations. If this bus had landed on a car of a congressman and crushed his son, we would not be quibbling about taking this measure, would we? Just as when Speaker De Venecia’s daughter perished in a fire due to faulty Christmas lights. It is a public safety issue, plain and simple. That is reason enough to reform the system.

          • baycas

            Well, Year 2011 marked the start of the reform…supposed to be…

            The goal is to reduce the traffic accident rate by 50% by Year 2020.


            The government owes us an update…

          • Emmanuel Doy Santos

            Under that plan LTFRB was to conduct an evaluation of all transport operators. This was to arrive at what kind of decision? Their plan is to cull the over-serviced routes through natural attrition. I argued back in 2011 that this policy goal is too modest. What we need is a proper rationalisation of the industry based on a demand and supply analysis.

            Then and only then can we determine how much to cull, and the best way to go about doing this. Among the questions this would raise is whether the market is best served through having many small operators or a few large ones? If the government had a plan, then it could at least consult with industry stakeholder groups on the best way forward. But at this point, there is no urgency. It is simply muddling through.