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Driver: Estella chose route of ill-fated taxi

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Text by Gail Orduña, Photos by Mario Ignacio IV, VERA Files

THE driver of the taxi journalist Chit Estella was riding when it was hit by two buses said on Wednesday Estella herself had chosen the route the taxi took from her home to Ayala Technohub in Quezon City where she was to meet her friends for dinner.

These and other details of the road accident that killed Estella, also known as Lourdes Estella-Simbulan, surfaced at the second hearing in the case of reckless imprudence resulting in homicide and damage to property filed against bus drivers Victor Ancheta and Daniel Espinosa.

The hearing was held just a few days before what would have been Estella's 55th birthday, on Aug. 19, and two days before her family was to launch an anthology of her work, on Aug 17.

Estella never made it to the dinner with friends. She died shortly after two speeding buses hit the taxi in the early evening of May 13 last year.

Ancheta drove a Nova bus while Espinosa drove a Universal Guiding Star bus, both of which were reportedly racing to get to passengers waiting along Commonwealth Avenue when they hit the taxi.

Ancheta's lawyer, Marvey Gonzales, questioned the taxi's route going to UP Ayala Technohub from Tandang Sora where Estella lived. He said the cab driver could have cut through Central Avenue to get to Commonwealth.

Vito Jagunos, driver of the Abu Abbey Taxi and the first witness to testify, said he took the route under Estella's instructions. From Tandang Sora where he fetched her, the driver turned to Visayas Avenue and then to Quezon Memorial Circle and took a U-turn on Commonwealth.

He also disproved the account of Gonzales' witness, William Amandy, a bystander, that his taxi moved back at the second lane of Commonwealth as it was approaching Ayala Technohub.

Salvador Panelo, Espinosa's lawyer, asked Jagunos to draw the taxi's exact location at the time it was hit. He also questioned Jagunos' knowledge of Commonwealth and his experience as a driver. Espinosa's bus hit the taxi's rear seconds after the Nova Bus hit its side.

Jagunos said he started driving in the year 1996 as a truck driver and then a family driver, but it was only two years ago that he drove a taxi for a living.

Estella was also a journalism professor at the University of the Philippines Diliman College of Mass Communication (CMC) and a founder and trustee of VERA Files.

On Aug. 17, Estella's family, friends and colleagues are launching Chit Estella: A reader on media ethics, people's issues and governance at the UP CMC Auditorium. The event is scheduled at 10 a.m.
The questioning of Ancheta and Espinosa's lawyers will continue on 2 p.m. on Sept. 12 at the Quezon City Regional Trial Court Branch 83 presided by Judge Ralph Lee.

(VERA Files is put out by senior journalists taking a deeper look at current issues. VERA is Latin for true.)

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