We have often heard this phrase as a catch-all for congressional and senate hearings where grandstanding is at its finest and incompetence is put under a spotlight.
The Senate hearings on the implementation of the Private Motor Vehicle Inspection Center (PMVIC) initiative of the Land Transportation Office this week promises to be yet another showcase of the condescending versus the dilettante. So bring out your popcorn.
But what is sad with these hearings is the realization that nothing productive might come out of them. And that all these are mere episodes of a grand circus that the public voraciously consumes.
Time and time again, we have witnessed congressional inquiries become the tax-payer funded pulpit of re-electionists who are more after preserving their position of power than actually providing concrete legislative solutions to our country’s problems. And to put the proverbial icing on the cake, we have an LTO that is tone-deaf to the needs and real problems of daily drivers.
Motorists have been the victim of the lack of foresight and empathy over the years. And while some noteworthy legislation has come out from the halls of Congress in the last two decades, their enforcement by the Executive branch has been lacking.
Take for example Republic Act 8749 or the Philippine Clean Air Act 1999. It is mandated here that emissions testing is a prerequisite to vehicle registration and that smoke belchers may be subjected to roadside emissions testing. If we work on the assumption that every motor vehicle on the road has passed emission testing by virtue of them being registered, why is Metro Manila still under the thick blanket of smog?
Or how about RA 8750, the Seat Belts Use Act 1999? It says that even drivers and front passengers of jeepneys should wear seat belts. Have you seen either put one on the road lately? Has any jeepney driver or his front passenger for that matter, been ticketed for not wearing a seatbelt?
And RA 8794 or the Motor Vehicle User’s Charge Law. Where has all the money here gone to? Are we seeing better roads and less street flooding now because of this? What projects in the last 20 years have been funded by this mandatory levy?
Then there is RA 10054, the Motorcycle Helmet Act of 2009. Eleven years on and there are still people who think wearing a helmet when riding motorcycles is optional. Just go to the provinces, and see how this law is unenforced and violations tolerated.
How about RA 10586 Anti-Drunk and Drugged Driving Act of 2013? How many of your friends still drive even after a drink? And how many accidents has the law prevented?
Despite well-meaning intentions, there are existing laws that are either ignored or not enforced by the LTO and its deputies. Take RA 10666, or the Children’s Safety on Motorcycles Act of 2015. The law states that it is unlawful to have a child on board when on public roads with a heavy volume of vehicles, or heavy density of fast moving vehicles, or where the speed limit is 60 km/h or higher. It also states that the child must reach the motorcycle’s foot pegs, must have arms that are able to grasp the waist of the rider, wear a helmet, and must not sit in front of a rider. Why are all these still a common sight in the provinces then? Does the law not apply to them?
More recently, RA 10913 or the Anti-Distracted Driving Act. After much hullabaloo, the enforcement of this law seems to have been sidelined. Cars have thick tint, they say. Law enforcers cannot see through and call an apprehension. And yet, in plain sight, we still have motorcycle riders who tinker with their mobile phones while stopped at intersections are often ignored. Did you know that even those riding on bicycles, pedicabs, tractor and heavy machinery operators, habal-habal riders and even farmers on animal-drawn carts may be penalized for violating this law?
Then there is the stillborn RA10916, or Road Speed Limiter Act of 2016 which requires closed vans, cargo trailers, haulers, PUVs, shuttle services, and tanker trucks to be equipped with speed limiters. This law was crafted to reduce accidents caused by speeding trucks and buses. And to this day, we have yet to be appraised of the progress of the speed limiter rollout even if the law says no speed limiter, no registration.
There is also RA 10930 which extends the validity period of drivers’ licenses. While the law does say the LTO should promulgate stricter rules and prerequisites for those applying for new licenses, it assumes that existing license holders without violations during the last five years are entitled to a ten year validity for his license. Did the wisemen in Congress and LTO ever consider that some license holders were probably not caught violating road rules? Maybe also because of the lax enforcement by the LTO of these road rules to begin with?
And of course, how can we forget the much contested Motorcycle Crime Prevention Act, or RA 11235? Senator Richard Gordon had scathing remarks towards LTO officials last week when he went ballistic on the agency’s non-implementation of the “Doble Plaka” law. The deferment of the implementation of the law allows a reprieve for criminals to continue using motorcycles to commit their heinous crimes. Relying on the fact that existing license plates, if the motorcycle has license plates at all, can hardly be read. And with 13-million license plates still to be released by the agency, it seems highly likely that this law too will end up as a forgotten piece of legislation.
With so many laws already in existence, do you not wonder why our motoring culture is still such a mess? Why there is wanton disregard for traffic rules and regulations? Why does traffic continue to be a daily cross for motorists to bear? Is it just because of the Land Transportation Office’s negligence and lack of urgency why we continue to suffer in our everyday commute and why car ownership is made difficult by the day?
If there is one piece of legislation that arises from these hearings, may it be one that finally updates the roles, duties and mandates of the LTO to be more in touch with the times. Call it the Land Transportation Authority, a singular, centralized government agency with a clearer mandate and scope. A highly-funded central planning agency that will foresee the land transportation needs of the country and institute measures for the nation to cope with such. An agency that broadens its powers to include a sizable, nationwide traffic law enforcement force. Heck, merge the Highway Patrol Group under the LTO’s supervision. Give the agency the fangs to employ undercover enforcers who can stop motorists in their tracks as soon as they commit a violation.
Disband the LTO as we know it, disperse its people, rescind the questionable supply contracts and create a new, younger bureaucracy that is more responsive to the public and its needs. Retire the old guards in the agency and its regional offices and fill up these posts with transportation experts. Those who have a lengthy educational and practical background in transportation management. If private companies can be strict with their job requirements, the government should be too. They owe that much to the people.
And finally, include provisions in this new law that will bind the appointed heads of the agency to implement the laws of the land and have penalties for not satisfactorily performing their duties, if the public so desires to file cases against them.
Accountability has been lacking in government for decades. If we really want change, we must be ready for the consequences.
Motoring and motorsports are two of Mikko’s greatest passions. Combining more than twenty years of professional automotive photography and videography experience with years of touring car racing competition, and a deep understanding of the car industry, from both the manufacturers’ and consumers’ points of view, have given him a unique and insightful perspective in the motoring beat.