It is the usual corruption in government that contributed to the capsizing of a motor boat on Laguna de Bay last July 27 and killed 27 passengers, a Senate inquiry bared on Tuesday. Motor Boat (MB) Aya Express driver Donald Anain admitted he bribed the Philippine Coast Guard (PCG) personnel stationed in Binangonan, Rizal to be allowed to sail his overloaded boat without inspection.
Anain described their practice as “pampangiti”.
“You give them anything… I just bought P100 worth of bananas. Some money was also involved. Fifty pesos for snacks,” Anain testified.
Anain claimed it was not his intention to overload but had a hard time preventing passengers from boarding the boat, a tale refuted by John Marr Nino de los Reyes, one of the 47 survivors of the tragedy. “In fact,” he returned to the port to take in eight more passengers,” de los Reyes said.
The survivor also revealed that some passengers had complained that they were already overloaded but were ignored. Other survivors interviewed immediately after the incident said they were not required to don life vests.
Life for bananas
A Kodao source who frequently visited Talim Island said he has never seen a PCG personnel conduct an inspection of the boats before casting off. The source also said that not only are the boats frequently overloaded, they have never been asked to don life vests.
Petty Officer 2 Jay Rivera, on duty at the PCG station that day, admitted at the Senate inquiry that while he received Anain’s manifest listing 22 passengers, he did not perform a personal inspection of the boat. It turned out that the boat had 70 souls on board, only 43 of whom survived the tragedy. The passenger limit for MB Aya Express was only 42.
PCG Commander Admiral Artemio Abu said Rivera was indeed “negligent” and had ordered his relief from duties, along with PCG Rizal chief Lieutenant (Junior Grade) Arjohn Elumba pending further investigations of the tragedy. The PCG however said it does not believe–in fact it is “absurd”–their personnel succumb to bananas.
Unsafe ferry boats nationwide
Aside from having no captain’s license to operate the vessel, the boat plying the Binangonan-Talim Island route itself is without a license from the Maritime Industry Authority (MARINA), the Senate inquiry also revealed. The MARINA also told the senators that such wooden-hulled boats were already banned by the maritime agency since 2016. MB Aya Express’ blueprint was not approved by MARINA prior to its construction nor was it ever inspected by the agency, the inquiry further revealed.
Many of the motor boat ferries on Laguna de Bay, as well as in other parts of the country, are still wooden-hulled, such as the one that capsized off Romblon last week that also killed one passenger.
Committee chairperson Senator Grace Poe said she is proposing the creation of a National Transport Safety Board designed to oversee the operation of transport systems in the country. “In a country composed of thousands of islands, Philippines should have the highest safety standards in water transportation,” she added.
Tuesday’s Senate committee hearing might have also revealed a new euphemism that illustrates the rampant corruption in government.
A new addition to the country’s collection of corruption-related words, “pampangiti” may be loosely translated to English as “a bribe to make the taker smile.”
In 2008, think-tank Center for People Empowerment in Governance published the book “Corruptionary: A Unique Dictionary of Corruption Words”, a compilation of 450 words of corruption in the Philippines.
Other corruption-related words that have become bywords in political discussions are “tong-pats”, “bukol”, “padulas”, “for the boys” and others. # (Raymund B. Villanueva)