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Bacolod City, Philippines Tuesday, July 3, 2018
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with Carlos Antonio L. Leonardia

Ranting license


A friend of mine bought a car almost three years ago. His conduction sticker is already fading but there is still no plate available. The three-year LTO registration that came with his car will soon expire but he has no clue how to register his car because it doesn’t look like he will have a license plate when the times come to renew his registration.

If change was supposed to come, shouldn’t the situation be better after two years? Didn’t the people who mocked the way the LTO used to do things boast about their will and determination, and the best and brightest minds who could fix everything in 3-6 months?

I don’t like to be a bean counter but it’s been more than 24 months but we are still facing disappointment and frustration every time license plates and driver’s licenses are mentioned. Even for those who gave a lot of leeway to the 3-6 month campaign promise, it needs to be noted that 24 months is 8x the optimistic end of that promise and 4x the pessimistic forecast. Any way we look at it, there seems to be no improvement in the way things are done in the LTO.

What is so difficult about metal stamping a series of numbers and letters? Is there a reason why new license plates as rare as the capture and prosecution of drug lords in this country? Shouldn’t the production and distribution of license plates be a simple job, a low hanging fruit for a government that wants to boast of positive change and efficient government service?

Is running a government agency so it can produce simple stamped metal plates for car owners truly more complicated than it seems? Did the people who love to make promises underestimate the problem and overestimate their abilities?

Aside from the still-missing license plates, the LTO’s performance with regards to the release of driver’s license cards is another massive disappointment. I renewed my Driver’s License more than 15 months ago and up to now I have no card. In fairness to the LTO then, the renewal process didn’t take more than an hour but I ultimately went home with nothing but an official receipt and a promise that a proper driver’s license would be available in a couple of months.

It’s probably fine here in the Philippines where authorities accept pieces of paper as substitutes for driver’s licenses but a friend of mine who travelled to Europe was not able to rent a car because his driver’s license was expired and the rental company couldn’t understand why they should accept a receipt. They probably couldn’t fathom how a government in this day and age doesn’t have the capability to immediately print driver’s licenses upon renewal. They probably think that Filipinos still live in caves because of that pathetic LTO OR my friend attempted to use to rent a car.

Here in the Philippines, although it would be nice to have one because we paid for it and are required by law to have it when operating a motor vehicle, the lack of a driver’s license card is actually no problem, especially in Negros where nobody gets apprehended for traffic violations. But if you want to have a plastic card, you will have to prepare to go the extra mile for it.

Fifteen months after renewing my license, I heard that the LTO is issuing driver’s license cards. I didn’t want to waste time waiting so I waited a few more months to allow the rush to cool off before going back to the mall where I processed my renewal to try and claim mine. It was there I learned that they apparently issue only 100 cards a day and we have to get a number to be among the lucky 100. It was already afternoon when I went there so the numbers had been given away and I was told to come back in the morning.

The next time I went back, it was 10 a.m., right after the mall opened. However, upon getting there, I was told that the numbers had already been given out and I have to go back much earlier if I wanted a driver’s license card.

The third time, I went to the mall before 8 a.m. thinking that would do the trick but I was still too late. A long line of drivers had already formed to wait for the LTO person to give out numbers later that morning. I did not have all day to waste so I left. On my way out, I chatted with the mall security guard who told me people show up at that mall entrance as early as 4am so they could be among the lucky 100. OMSG. Is there any guarantee that we will not get arrested for being a tambay, risking death while in police custody, if we go there and technically istambay before the crack of dawn?

If this supposed to be better than before, it is obviously worse. This frustrating experience with government agencies that seemed to be making gains in terms of efficiency just a couple of years ago is making me dread the day my passport will expire.

By the way, while we are talking about renewals, is it true that the DFA system for passport renewal is worse than the LTO’s license woes?

If we believe the hype and the slogans, government services should be better by now. What is causing the back slide? Are these guys no longer afraid of the legendary wrath of Tatay Digong?*  

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