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Death by Angkas

“When we first raised the issue of Angkas taxis and it’s illegality based on existing statutes, our focus was on the motorcycle taxi’s adherence to road discipline and courtesy.

Dean Dela Paz

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One week ago today on a typical Tuesday just like this, along M. C. Briones Street in Cebu City, truck driver Edgar Oncenes was following behind a smaller truck, an Elf, just as many other trucks were plying that same route daily. The route was crowded as it always was typically. Nearby was Pier One, a common destination for the largest lorries that kept the metropolis and the economic center of the Visayas bustling.

Its opposite lanes were separated by dividers and islands in some parts but not in all. M. C. Briones Street is a two-way thoroughfare. In both directions, convoys of prime mover trucks travelled to and fro. On the lane opposite Oncenes’ truck, Angkas rider Gerry Boy Chavez and his passenger Jessa Biola were on their way to a mall at AS Fortuna.

According to Oncenes, because of the volume of huge trucks on the road at the time, he did not notice that Chavez’s Angkas motorcycle taxi crossed his path from the other lane.

Speaking in the dialect Oncenes related, “Ang sinundan ko Elf, kaya nagtaka nga ako na may motor na napasok sa ilalim ng minamaneho ko (I was following the Elf and that is why I was wondering why a motorcycle ended up under the vehicle I was driving).”

Both the Angkas rider and his female passenger were taken to a nearby hospital but both had died.

While Angkas has been plying illegally in cities outside Metropolitan Manila and Metropolitan Cebu where they were authorized under a recent six-month trial period to assess their safety as taxis, Angkas deaths have only been recorded in Manila and Cebu. None were reported elsewhere.

Should we apply the arithmetic to appreciate the number of deaths as safety ratios, a current total of three out of the original 2,400 registered Angkas riders at the start of the trial period yield a kill ratio of 0.13 percent compared to 0.011 percent of the eventual 27,000 Angkas riders that the enterprise had bloated to during the trial period. Both percentages merely indicate that the number of those killed can be diluted by simply increasing to a larger base.

Add the illegal and unauthorized Angkas riders in various places in distant Mindanao and the ratio improves lending some arithmetic truth to the Angkas claim that their taxis are 99.9 percent safe.

These numbers would normally be insignificant and mathematically mean nothing save for those killed. For them, death is 100 percent.

Simply change the base and the ratios can be spun in any form or manner paid hucksters and publicity artists wish. For example, three deaths in six months is 50 percent. It is worse than three fatalities in a span of 180 days which yields 1.67 percent. In each, lost lives represent the numerator, and it is lives that are gambled off all because of the failure of the authorities to provide a rational system of mass transport.

The mathematics of probabilities is not on the side of these motorcycle taxis. The increasing number of deaths can only fly north to the detriment of its riders and the passengers who literally risk both life and limb compelled as they are by our failure to provide safe, efficient and intelligent mass transport systems.

Unfortunately this is not just a question of death by Angkas. There’s also the question of attempted rape and molestation that made the headlines during the trial period when Angkas riders were undergoing the strict scrutiny of regulators and a vulnerable public effectively coerced by unfortunate circumstances.

Rape is not merely an act of sexual deviance; it is an act of violence. Seen in that light the mathematical ratio of 99.9 percent “safe” can suddenly rise as we add those to the gradually increasing number of fatalities ironically occurring in a trial period where all eyes are focused on safety.

When we first raised the issue of Angkas taxis and it’s illegality based on existing statutes, our focus was on the motorcycle taxi’s adherence to road discipline and courtesy seen through its observance of traffic laws and ordinances, and the safety issues that result out of these where violations and blatant disregard can result in death. Unfortunately, we now have the numbers.

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