Now that it’s over, I can write about the whole story. And it’s really about why, despite my dislike for cops, I can’t say that all cops are bad eggs. There are gems, I tell you. This is also a story about crooks who, in their stupidity, think that everyone else is more stupid that they are.
If you’re a regular reader, you’d probably know that our younger daughter, Alex, started college this year and she and her older sister, Sam, share a condo near their school where they stay during weekdays. So, last May, Alex moved to the condo, I stayed overnight and, the following evening, Speedy came for me. We were driving back to the suburb, it was raining lightly and traffic was bad.
If you’re familiar with Ortigas Avenue Extension, Cainta area, you’d probably know that after passing the Ever-Gotesco complex, the street narrows. So, traffic was crawling, Speedy was driving and we stayed on our lane. A Nissan Urvan on our right (our vehicle and his were parallel to each other) was trying to maneuver his way into our lane at that point where the street begins to narrow. Speedy honked his horn, the driver momentarily stopped then, to my utter surprise, he hit our truck (okay, it’s a Nissan Frontier which is, technically, a truck) right behind the rear passenger door.
Now, if you’ve seen a Nissan Urvan (see photos), you’d know that only a very careless driver would hit another vehicle in that crawling traffic because a Nissan Urvan has a flat front and a very large windshield. In short, the field of view is wide and there is not much calculation needed to know how near you are to the other in front of you and beside you because with that flat front, you know exactly when you’re within inches of another vehicle.
So the Nissan Urvan hit us and, rain notwithstanding, I opened my door as Speedy did his and, in tank top and short shorts (we were just going home from the condo and didn’t plan on stopping anywhere in between), I started cursing. Okay, I was tired. And upset. My little girl just moved out, the weather was crappy, we had been in traffic for over an hour and I just wanted to go home. Who wanted the aggravation? I told the driver to get out (he was the lone passenger of the Urvan). Speedy inspected the damage and demanded the Nissan Urvan driver to hand over his license and registration papers. But the driver wouldn’t move. He was trying to apologize but gave neither his license nor registration papers.
Like I said, that’s the part where the street narrows. In short, because two vehicles were blocking the street, traffic was at a standstill. The drivers of vehicles way, way behind were honking their horns but no one — NO ONE — screamed nor cursed at Speedy and me, and we were making a huge scene there. No one even suggested that we move our truck. Perhaps, my mouth was on fire and everyone was afraid. Maybe I just didn’t see the fire.
I took my iPhone from my purse and took photos from at least two angles.
For something like ten minutes, nothing moved. The driver still refused to get out of his vehicle but I think it was sometime during those ten minutes when Speedy was finally able to get his driver’s license and registration papers. EXPIRED driver’s license. So, that was why the driver was scared shitless and refused to get out of the vehicle.
Then, the cops arrived. Who called them, I didn’t know. It wasn’t us. They asked us, and the other driver, to follow the police car to the precinct. A policeman got inside the Nissan Urvan and sat beside the driver. No one got into our Frontier.
When we got to the precinct, the Nissan Urvan was nowhere in sight. I started to lose my temper. My face felt hot. I asked one of the cops there where the other driver was. He said, “Dinala po sa ospital (He was brought to the hospital).”
I blew up. “We were the one that got hit and you brought HIM to the hospital?”
“Ma’am, nangangamoy po kasi yung driver kaya pina-alcohol test (Ma’am, the driver smelled of alcohol so we had him undergo an alcohol test).”
Whoa. It felt like one of life’s most embarrassing moments for me. For the police to have that kind of initiative didn’t cross my mind. I regained my composure, thanked him and asked if it was alright to smoke. He said yes and I smoked and waited patiently.
You get the picture. The driver of the Nissan Urvan was operating a vehicle with an expired driver’s license and under the influence of alcohol. Those are two separate crimes. When he hit us, he committed a third.
I was smoking outside, the owner of the vehicle arrived (the drunk driver was a hired chauffeur), he approached me but I told him I wasn’t talking to him without the cops present. By the time we were in conference with the cops, he tried to settle by offering to have our pick-up repaired. But he was talking to the air. Speedy and I had already discussed it and we were clear that whatever the offer, we were still going to have the accident in the police blotter. I wanted everything on record.
So, the cops encouraged us to settle. We were amenable. But the record on the police blotter stays. Good thing that Speedy and I were clear on that. Because, as you are probably guessing right now, after we had all left the precinct, the vehicle owner started playing hide-and-seek with us. So, what the heck. We sued the darn driver for damage to property for reckless imprudence. And we wouldn’t have been able to do that if we hadn’t insisted that the whole thing be recorded in the police blotter.
But that’s not the end of the drama.
The case was filed and arraignment was set. You know, the part when the accused pleads guilty or not guilty. I accompanied Speedy to court, as his wife and not as his lawyer (it was just an arraignment and it’s really the public prosecutor who’s supposed to run the show) so, well, I wasn’t dressed as a lawyer. I was wearing a low-cut sleeveless blouse and tight capri pants. What the heck. It was a sweltering humid morning.
While waiting for the session, the accused arrived and there was a woman with him. The woman sat beside me, said she was with the accused, I cut her short and told her we had nothing to discuss as we were proceeding with the case.
The accused couldn’t be arraigned because the public prosecutor did not show up. The judge did his job and asked Speedy if they couldn’t settle the matter. Speedy had never been to a criminal proceeding until that day. Naturally, he was worried about saying something that would bind him in the wrong way. He looked at me and, well, I stood up. “Your Honor, if I may…” I said I was the wife of the private complainant but didn’t mention that I was a lawyer. And I ranted on.
Somewhere during that rant, I mentioned drunk driving as a public menace. Why should we withdraw the criminal case and have that irresponsible driver back behind a steering wheel? The accused driver (almost in tears, according to Speedy) tried to mumble an apology and said he had a check from his employer to cover the amount of damage. The judge asked for the check, the woman (who had sat beside me earlier) came forward with it, I inspected it and said we weren’t going to accept it. It was a blank check and the signatory was not the driver’s employer (the registered owner of the vehicle). What did he think we were — stupid? The check was drawn against the Makati branch of some bank. What — we’d have to go all the way to Makati? And if that check had been stolen and we tried to encash it, the problems would just mount.
So, no go, I told the judge. We were not going to be obliged to file a BP 22 (Bouncing Checks Law) after this one. And the judge (Speedy said the judge was half-smiling — I’m sure he already knew I was a lawyer at that point) told the accused he couldn’t blame us. After all the hide-and-seek games, now a blank check signed by who knows who. I told the judge I saw no reason why the accused himself couldn’t encash that check and bring the money to court. The judge agreed, told the accused to encash the check and deposit the amount with the court.
Last week, we received a notice from the court that the money was there and we could collect it. This morning, we did. I wanted to go on with the criminal case but Speedy said he did not want to be bothered with more court hearings. It’s true that these things could be such an inconvenience. And we could have avoided it if only the driver and his employer did not bullshit us about paying for the damage. That driver is lucky because Speedy was the private complainant. If it had been me, I wouldn’t agree to a withdrawal of the criminal case. Screw him.