Monday, March 02, 2009

On the Ateneo carpark accident

When I first heard about the tragic on-campus traffic accident that claimed 10-year-old Ateneo Grade School student Amiel Alcantara, my initial reaction was horrified disbelief. That a young life was taken so abruptly and violently is terrible enough, but that it happened on school premises somehow makes it even harder to come to terms with. When parents send their kids off to school, certainly death is the farthest thing from their minds, and to lose a child in a place where he is supposed to be safe, adds a particularly bitter irony to it all.

What makes things even worse in the case of Amiel's death is that the person behind the wheel of the vehicle that hit him, Ma. Theresa Torres, is another parent. And in a cruel coincidence, the woman's own child is in the same grade as Amiel. There are varying versions of accounts of the accident, but all lead to the same conclusion that the mother driving the van stepped on the gas instead of the brakes, and plowed into poor Amiel and his elderly yaya.

One of the things that crossed my mind while mulling over this unfortunate incident was what I'd do if I were Amiel's parents, whether or not I would press charges against Torres. Could I send another parent to jail for accidentally killing my child? Discounting irresponsibility and recklessness, there's no question Torres did not mean to hurt anyone. An added consideration is that she is a single mother of 4. Would it not weigh on my conscience leaving 4 children bereft of their only parent?

On the other hand, I need only imagine a 10-year-old Bens getting mowed down by a van to know that I would be too busy going out of my mind with grief and rage to brook any ethical self-debate. The Alcantaras have every right to pursue whatever legal recourse is available to them, and though nothing the courts hand down will bring Amiel back, perhaps justice being served in his name would help ease some of the pain.

Then there's the issue of Torres' "apology", which left a lot of people-- including the Alcantaras-- cold, striking them as insincere and evasive. In her statement, Torres is careful to make no admission of guilt, obviously following advice from her lawyer. I can understand and sympathize with Torres, that no matter how truly contrite she is, she can't express it fully for fear of self-incrimination. However, given that the Alcantaras seem like a decent family, I think a whole-hearted apology free of cautious legal editing would be appreciated, and might actually convince them to reconsider pressing charges against Torres. But of course that's just me. Where the loss of a loved one is concerned, it's hard to presume anything.

I feel sorry for all involved, from the Alcantara family, to the yaya who was injured in the same accident, to Torres, to Torres' kids (especially the son who probably can't face his batchmates anymore after his mom accidentally killed one of their own). After everything's said and done, whether it's settled in or out of court, no one comes out of this a winner.


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