#JusticeForMichelleSilvertino: Calls for justice mount for woman who died waiting for bus ride to Bicol

June 10, 2020 - 2:45 PM
Personnel of the Inter-Agency Council for Traffic (IACT) along Epifanio de los Santos Avenue at a Bus Augmentation designated bus stop in North Avenue, Quezon City (PNA photo by Joey O. Razon)

Some personalities and Filipino users took to social media to demand for justice for a mother who died at a footbridge in Pasay City after waiting for a bus ride home to the province for five days. 

A 33-year-old woman identified as Michelle Silvertino who was a house helper in Antipolo, Rizal was on her way home to her children in Camarines Sur when the lack of public transportation forced her to walk and wait at a footbridge in Pasay City, which eventually led to her demise.

Pasay City Police said a concerned citizen found Silvertino at the bridge ill and had difficulty breathing last June 5. 

The concerned citizen reportedly sought help from the nearby Barangay 159 in the city and was rejected.  

Silvertino was already unconscious when the local police found her. She eventually died when they brought her to the Pasay City General Hospital 

Her death certificate indicated possible COVID-19 as the cause of death.  

In an interview with ABS-CBNSilvertino’s friend Nathanael Alviso detailed her struggles to get home.  

Before May ended, Silvertino asked permission from her employer to go home and was immediately allowed to, provided with P6,000 cash in hand. Her employer even accompanied her to a bus terminal in Cubao in Quezon City as they assumed that provincial buses going to the Bicol region are already operating. 

After finding no bus that would take her home, Alviso said that his friend walked from Quezon City to Pasay City with a heavy luggage.  

In her hopes to get home, Silvertino then waited and stayed at the footbridge for five days, from May 31 to June 5. 

Alviso also said that his friend was already suffering from a lung-related illness, which was the main setback in her pursuit to work as a domestic helper in Saudi Arabia in 2019.  

She then resorted to working as a house helper in Rizal to provide for her four children in the province.  

When this report reached local social media, Filipinos were enraged with the perceived incompetency of the government.  

The hashtag #JusticeforMichelleSilvertino trended on local Twitter on Wednesday with over 6,500 tweets as of writing.  

Spoken word artist Juan Miguel Severo and award-winning director Antoinette Jadaone also joined in the online calls to bring justice to Silvertino’s death.  

Other users decried that everyone involved that led to Silvertino’s death should be held accountable.  

You know what killed her? Lack of work opportunities in the country. No free healthcare. Poor state of public transport system. Poor social welfare response. Indifferent public servants,” the user said 

Lawyer Gideon Lasco, meanwhile, compared Silvertino’s tragic tale to President Rodrigo Duterte’s exemption to the ban on domestic flights when he went home to Davao City 

Lasco juxtaposed screenshots of reports of these incidents on Twitter.  

Government’s fault?

On June 8, Alviso took to Facebook to direct the blame on the government, both local and national, which took part in the circumstances that allegedly caused Silvertino’s death.  

He criticized the Department of Transportation for its vague guidelines on mass transport, security personnel around the area for leaving her on the footbridge, barangay officials for refusing to help her and health officials for not giving her “deteriorating health” enough attention.  

Sa Pilipinas, pag hampas lupa ka wala ka. Change has come, for the worse.
Chinese first-class citizens, Filipinos second class, hampas lupa, don’t bother! They will just die and fade away,” he said.  

“Inggit talaga ako sa mga Chinese na special treatment sa BaclaranAlipin na tayo sa sarili nating bayan,” he added.  

I had experienced first hand that this government is fucked!Transportation – my friend, Michelle Silvertino, single…

Posted by Nathanael Alim Alviso on Monday, June 8, 2020

Under the general community quarantine, all forms of public transportation are permitted at limited capacity.  

However, in Metro Manila, the DOTr implemented two phases within the month of June for the residents’ mass transport needs.  

READ: A guide to available modes of mass transport units for areas under GCQ

For phase 1 (June 1 to 21), only jeepneys, express vans and provincial buses are still banned from operating despite the drivers earning no income for three months since the lockdown was imposed last March. 

Jeepneys, express vans, public utility buses and “modern public utility vehicles” will only be allowed to ferry commuters on phase 2 or starting on June 22. 

The DOTr has yet to release its decision on the resumption of services of provincial buses.

The Land Transportation Franchising and Regulatory Board also designated one route for public buses plying through the entire stretch of EDSA.