Woman gets 2 to 6 years in jail for running over Ateneo student
The family of the late Julian Carlo Miguel “Amiel” Alcantara has finally found justice, closure, and forgiveness after a Quezon City Regional Trial Court convicted the woman who had hit and run over him at the Ateneo de Manila University parking lot eight years ago.
In a 23-page decision promulgated on Dec. 8, Judge Cecilyn Villavert of Branch 89 of the Quezon City RTC sentenced Ma. Theresa Torres to two to six years in prison and ordered her to pay Amiel’s family P4.4 million in criminal and civil damages.
In the courtroom, Torres walked to Amiel’s parents, Jose Fernando and Melanie Alcantara, after the verdict was read and all broke down in tears, a family friend of the Alcantaras told the Inquirer on Sunday.
When he died, Amiel was 10 years old, a fourth grade student at the Ateneo.
The friend said the Alcantara family had forgiven Torres, herself a mother.
Amiel also lives in the lessons everybody learned from the incident. His family recognizes how Ateneo has continued to improve its traffic system, which by now has been emulated by other schools.
Moreover, the public has become more aware and concerned for the need for comprehensive road safety regulations and enforcement.
Of the P4.4 million worth of damages, P2 million is for exemplary damage, which the court grants as an example for the public good.
It was on Feb. 24, 2009 at around 4:30 p.m. when Torres stayed with her daughter inside a borrowed Toyota Hi-Ace van at the Ateneo parking lot while they were waiting for her driver to pick up her son.
Torres said she heard several cars honking behind her, which prompted her to shift to the driver’s side and move the van.
At that moment, Amiel, Avie, younger sister Jana, and nanny Tomasa “Tata” Suarez, were crossing the street towards their own car after picking up Amiel and Avie.
While Torres claimed she drove slowly, witnesses Jonas Mahinay and the Alcantaras’ family driver, Khan Nguyen Alcasabas, told the court they heard a “loud and resounding sound” from the van, saw it speed at an estimated 40 to 60 kph, then hit Amiel and Tata, and then two other vehicles before it came to a full stop.
Torres had pleaded not guilty to the case of reckless imprudence resulting in homicide and physical injuries filed against her by Jose Fernando and Melanie, and fought hard in court to contest the allegation of criminal negligence against her that caused the death of Amiel.
Torres, through her lawyer, had tried to convince the court that there was also negligence on the part of Amiel, Avie, Jana, and Tata because they did not use the pedestrian lane and did not look for oncoming vehicles as they approached their own car.
The court noted that Torres herself admitted in her testimony that she saw the victims crossing the street and knew that even if her vehicle moved slowly she would hit Tata and Jana.
“It is therefore clear from the foregoing that accused had that last chance to avoid hitting the victims,” the court said.
Mahinay also told the court he heard Torres tell the Ateneo guards that she stepped on the accelerator instead of the brakes.
Alcasabas said he rushed to Amiel and saw his head pinned in the back right tire of the van. He said he and another person had to push the van to release the tire from Amiel’s head.
Amiel died in the arms of Alcasabas as he rushed the boy to the New Era Hospital.
“The totality of the evidence presented shows that the proximate cause of death of Amiel was the reckless driving of the accused,” the court said.
In its verdict, the court also ordered Torres to pay Tata P50,000 as moral damages for her injuries and suffering at the rate of 6 percent per annum from the date of finality of judgment until fully paid. /atm, Nikko Dizon