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Gentlemen, we have a problem

Gentlemen, we have a problem

Mikko David

We were surprised by Monday’s late news that Atty. Jay Art Tugade was appointed to lead the Land Transportation Office. Now, if the name sounds familiar, it’s because he is the son of the former Department of Transportation Secretary, Art Tugade. 

Love him or hate him, the Duterte administration’s DOTr head was a larger-than-life figure in the previous cabinet. He had the vision to get things done with expediency. Even at the expense of due diligence, many of his projects often caught the ire of senators, fellow cabinet members, and the commuting public. And in fairness to former Secretary Tugade, he got the ball rolling on many plans and projects previous administrations sat down on.

In line with this presidency’s “Don’t judge the son by the sins of the father” mantra, we would like to give Attorney, now Assistant Secretary, Jay Art, the benefit of the doubt when tidying up the LTO. In fact, the shortcomings accrued during his father’s tenure as overseer of the Land Transportation Office have their roots in decades of mismanagement. As concerned motorists, let us recommend essential action items he can work on to clean up the mess that is the LTO. 

Plate number backlog

Kudos to the previous LTO administration for introducing number plate stamping machines. It indeed made the turnover of new number plates for brand-new cars faster. However, whatever happened to those number plates that motorists paid for as replacements for their old green and white 1981-series plates? We still see old cars re-registered each year with the previous-generation registration plates. Isn’t it time we got to the bottom of this fiasco?

Missing car stickers

Connected to the previous issue are the registration stickers. Again, motorists have paid for this, and the official registration receipts reflect the payment. It’s a decade-long problem that got buried under one controversy after another. Will we ever get our money back for the stickers we never received? Let the LTO answer this question so we can move forward. 

Bond paper receipts

In all my years as a car owner, this is the first time I received an Official Receipt for the registration of my car printed on ordinary, everyday bond paper. Seriously, how did it come to this? Now, any Tom, Dick, or Harry can manipulate the details in Photoshop and print a fake OR on paper anyone can buy from the neighborhood bookstore. Carnappers are having a field day with this. They don’t even have to go to Recto to produce a government receipt.

Fix the fixers

Despite various pronouncements to the contrary, the LTO is still teeming with fixers who facilitate car registrations. Non-appearance vehicle registration? No problem, just leave your OR/CR with the fixer and return the new receipt in the afternoon. Is the LTO this hopeless? The root of the problem is likely the arduous process of registering a vehicle. From emissions testing to queuing in less-than-hospitable conditions, motorists are looking for convenience with our transactions. We don’t want to waste half a day or more to complete a registration renewal. Shape up the process and ship out the fixers.

The return of PMVIC

See Also

One of the previous DOTr and LTO administrations’ contentious programs was the Private Motor Vehicle Inspection Center, or PMVIC, fiasco. The objective of ensuring that only safe and road-worthy vehicles are registered is sound. It was commendable that the elder-Tugade DOTr and LTO did something to address this failed function of the LTO. But the way it was implemented, as with many government projects, left a sour taste in the public’s mouth. 

From inaccurate readings to the unfair focus on private vehicles when many road accidents were caused by poorly maintained public utility and commercial vehicles saw sectors of the public voice their anger. Then there was the question that the investment by PMVIC operators should have gone through the Public-Private Partnership guidelines. To add insult to injury, the agency’s flip-flopping from mandatory to optional vehicle inspection by PMVIC facilities as a prerequisite to vehicle registration made matters worse for the inspection facility operators and the public. Can the LTO finally set the record straight here?

Licensing

Hats off to the previous LTO administration for improving the registration requirements for new drivers. Hopefully, the new generation of motorists will be better prepared and informed about the privilege a driver’s license entails. We are just worried about those who acquired their driver’s licenses without the benefit of proper education, or worse via fraudulent means, or those who game the new licensing system by letting others answer their online exams.

What does the incoming LTO head plan to do about these drivers and riders wreaking havoc on our roads? Indeed, extending the validity of one’s license to ten years won’t solve the problem of lack of discipline and knowledge of road rules. Will this be another instance where the agency turns a blind eye to a lingering and festering social problem?

Assec Jay Art Tugade is brave to accept this appointment. Let us hope that the many decent and hardworking government employees in the LTO will work with him to solve the agency’s issues and fix its image. More importantly, we pray that the new head of the LTO will finally see and appreciate the office’s key role in providing quality service to the millions of tax-paying motorists.