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EXPLAINER: Why ‘innocent’ drivers get arrested in road accidents

By: Emmariel Ares - Multimedia Reporter - CDN Digital | April 24,2024 - 12:46 PM

EXPLAINER: Why ‘innocent’ drivers are arrested in road accidents
CEBU CITY, Philippines — In the event of a road accident involving two or more vehicles, authorities typically take an individual believed to have caused the accident into custody after an investigation.

However, there are certain incidents wherein the accidents are allegedly caused by the individuals who unfortunately die or sustain injuries.

Why ‘innocent’ driver gets arrested

In these situations, the driver of the other vehicle involved, who many perceived to be innocent, gets arrested instead.


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As an example of this, 60-year-old Dominador Ampoloqio Duyongan landed in jail after being involved in a collision along the viaduct of the Cebu South Coastal Road (CSCR), Cebu City on Wednesday, April 10.

Investigation showed that the the victim, a motorcycle driver, first crashed into a center island, and was thrown into the opposite lane into Duyongan’s vehicle.

The motorcycle driver died due to the impact when he slammed into Duyongan’s moving vehicle.

The motorcycle driver’s backrider, a 28-year-old waitress, also died in the accident.

Due to the deaths of the motorcycle driver and his backrider, Duyongan was taken into police custody and temporarily detained.

A charge of reckless imprudence resulting in double homicide was being readied by police to be filed against him.


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Arrest legal or not?

Incidents like this may cause the public to wonder why an arrest was still made when they can see that the person in question was not in the wrong.

Undoubtedly, it is fairly easy to feel sorry for the drivers they initially see as innocent. This then leads them to question whether the arrest was legal.

The fact is that when there are injuries, death, or even damage to property, the driver/s involved in road accidents such as this gets arrested.

But why exactly is this the case?

Police protocol

The answer to this question lies in the protocol followed by police personnel during investigations of accidents along the road.

Police Major Jonathan Dela Cerna, chief of the Traffic Enforcement Unit (TEU) of the Cebu City Police Office (CCPO), explained that an arrest was made as this was the mandate of the Philippine National Police (PNP).

According to Dela Cerna, an investigation is launched upon the arrival of the traffic investigation at the scene of road accidents to determine what infranctions were made and who should be held responsible.

After assessing the entirety of the situation, the investigator comes up with a conclusion based on what can be seen, heard, or perceived at the scene of the crime after the final investigation.

Probable cause

When there is probable cause, that enables the officer to objectively believe that a certain individual committed a crime, the person is arrested even without a warrant.

A person is taken into police custody when there is probable cause derived from objective circumstances of the incident.

Furthermore, the arrest is part of the protocol as long as the person is involved in a collision or traffic accident that actually took place.

The person involved will then be taken into custody, and it is now up to the prosecutor to decide whether the person is indeed at fault and should be held legally responsible.

Whether the case will be brought to a court will then be decided by the prosecutor.

This process explains precisely why police officers detain individuals under circumstances that citizens might initially believe to be someone else’s fault.

Holding period

According to Dela Cerna, the holding period of each person differs according to the severity of the infraction. For minor incidents with no serious physical injuries, a person can be held for around 2 to 6 hours pending for a decision to be made for the filing of the case.

However, an arrested individual may be released if the victim or a relative of the victim agrees to settle the matter amicably.

The suspect typically negotiates by promising to pay for damages or medical expenses to the affected individual.

Once a settlement is arranged, the arrested person is released from jail.

“Di nato mafile ang kaso kay not interested man sila [victim]  to file a case. Magdepend man ta sa complainant,” said Dela Cerna.

(We cannot file a case because they [the victim or victims] are not interested to file a case. We depend on the complainant.)

Such was the case for Duyongan, who was released on April 11, after the families of both victims decided not to pursue legal action.

Procedure applies to all road accidents

According to Dela Cerna, this procedure applies to all road accidents whether involving damage to property, injury, or homicide.

“Mao gyud na atong trabaho. Ifile ang kaso. Ang modetermine sa probable cause, ang kato nang piskal, prosecutor’s office. Kung moabot sa korte, ang korte nay modecide,” he added.

(That is our job. We file the case. The one to determine probable cause (will be the fiscal), prosecutor’s office. If it will reach the court, the one to decide will be the court.)

Dela Cerna further said that the TEU had received a mandate making all road accidents within the vicinity of Cebu City their responsibility for investigation.

“Ang Traffic Enforcement Unit, maoy naay mandate nga moimbestigar anang mga incidents. Atong mga previous months, labi na last year, ang naghandle ana ang stations concerned. Karon, for now, ang Traffic Enforcement Unit na gyud,” he said.

(The Traffic Enforcement Unit, that is given the mandate to investigate these incidents. In the previous months, especially last year, the ones handling that before are the stations concerned. At present, for now, the Traffic Enforcement Unit are the ones doing it.)

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TAGS: drivers, police custody, road accidents

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