Recently we started using the Text LTO service when we were in the process of acquiring a used car. Needless to say we found the service rather useful, given how we can verify if the vehicle we are looking at procuring has any alarms (read: reported stolen) at or apprehensions that needed to be settled at the Land Transportation Office.
What if, however, you tried the license plate of a car you know to be stolen? Would it show up with the expected LTO alarm?
In 2009, the 2002-model Mitsubishi Strada owned by Victor Anthony Ramos was stolen. The thieves were bold, as the vehicle and another one of his colleague were stolen right in front of their office in Barangay Laging Handa in Quezon City. As it also turned out, 2 others had their car stolen on the same day in the same area, bringing the day's total to 4. To this day Ramos's vehicle has never been recovered.
Naturally we sent a message to Text LTO with plate number XCL-285 (2002 Mitsubishi Strada), fully expecting the system to turn up an alarm. Below is the automated message from their Text LTO:
All clear, so says the Text LTO system. This is highly unnerving, particularly for those looking to acquire a second hand car given how a vehicle known to be “hot” was cleared by the LTO's own system. We asked Victor Anthony Ramos about where he reported the said theft and he said that the car was reported stolen with the Philippine National Police the very same day at Camp Karingal in Quezon City.
If that was baffling, then this next one is even more so. The other vehicle stolen the same day as Ramos's Strada was a 1999 Honda Civic owned by Nicolo Manahan with plate number WFK-489. The response we got from the Text LTO system about the unrecovered vehicle was even more disturbing than the last:
Not only was WFK-489 given the all clear, it was also shown to be registered in 2013 despite being stolen since 2009. The color has also changed from the original white to R. Red.
How can a vehicle duly reported stolen be registered? Alarming, isn't it?
To try out the Text LTO system for yourself, test it with a car you know to be stolen. Type in “LTO VEHICLE [Plate Number]” and send to 2600 from any network. For example: LTO VEHICLE AAA999. Wait a few seconds (or minutes) for the response. Let us know in the comments below what kind of response you get.
Oh, it costs PhP 2.50 to do it and it only works during office hours.