Today I took off the clear plate covers and the plate frames on my car.
There. I said it.
The main reason is simply to avoid the hassle of being flagged down for a reason that only takes a little time and a bit elbow grease to prevent in the first place. So now they're off... but there's more.
I take them off not just begrudgingly but also in protest. It sounds strange, but there is a point here; actually there are two.
For the first, we have to go way, way back; to kindergarten, actually.
I remember walking into that classroom with a brand new backpack-slash-trolley full of brand new books with the price tags of Goodwill Bookstore still on them. Before we even proceeded to learn the A-B-C's and 1-2-3's, our teacher taught us how to wrap a schoolbook in protective plastic. We spent a good two hours cutting rolls of plastic to size and neatly folding them around the books' covers and securing them with clear tape. Sound familiar?
As early as then we were taught the value of taking care of our stuff. We were taught the value of keeping things neat, clean and scratch-free. We were taught the value of our parents' work by caring for the things we bought with their hard earned money. That's the reason why, if I go back to the home I grew up in, I'm sure I'll find some of my old schoolbooks (and my comic books) from as far back as 1986 still in their protective plastic.
As time progressed, that same habit translated to all the other things we bought. Is the way we were taught to wrap schoolbooks so different from buying screen protectors or bumper guards for our smartphones? Is it so different from laminating ID cards, buying pouches for our passports or buying those flimsy folding cases for our driver's licenses whenever we renew them?
Is it so different from attaching a clear cover to protect our license plates?
Protecting our things particularly those that identify us such as licenses, plates, passports, IDs and the like, is one of the fibers of our being. It is something that we Filipinos who underwent the Filipino school system will understand, as this is a trait that has been inculcated and indoctrinated in us during our formative years in the classroom and at home.
Given that, the massive uproar amongst motorists on social media regarding the supposed ban of plate covers and frames was inevitable. From what I've noticed, the people who reacted the most to this issue are the ones who can honestly say they truly own only one vehicle; a sedan, hatchback, coupe, truck, SUV, crossover, MPV, AUV or van that is the rolling result of their hard work and expression of his or her personality. And yes, the license plate, like a passport or a school ID, is an integral part of that expression.
However as stated in Joint Administrative Order 2014-01, all plate covers are banned. There is a good reason for it: plate covers can affect the reflectivity of the plate's finish at night while some have even gone on to tinting their plate covers.
It's written in black and white, and so we as motorists really have to follow it. That's all well and good that the LTO is finally enforcing the rules and regulations of the road to the letter, even though we don't agree. It goes against what was taught to us in school, but rules are rules. This, however, brings me to my second, more disturbing point.
After the social media uproar and the calls for car owners and enthusiasts for a motorcade-style protest in front of the LTO and honking their horns for 1 minute, the same LTO spokesperson that stated on TV that plate covers and relevant accessories are banned came out again with a rather confusing follow-up statement.
According to Jason Salvador, LTO spokesperson, the plate cover ban is only applied for the newly issued plate designs as they somehow affect the reflectivity of the finish. Old or existing plates, based on his word to various other media agencies, may keep their clear plate covers on.
That's all well and good to appease the massive uproar of motorists and car owners in social media, but that's a double standard based on a simple because-we-said-so. This goes against the written rules and regulations that the LTO or any government agencies enforce and abide by. Is it the new policy of the LTO to choose to enforce the rules by text messages and statements like a miniaturized version of a Presidential Decree? We all know how that turned out back in the Martial Law years.
What's even more disturbing is that the LTO has practically said that they will enforce a double standard by implementing a rule for new car buyers with new plates while leaving the older cars with old plates be. We don't even have to say it, but that double standard is a whole new can of worms.
We all drive the same streets. We all pay the registration fees. We all undergo the same ridiculous emissions tests. We all subject ourselves to the same rules under R.A. 4136 and all subsequent regulations for motor vehicles. We shouldn't be governed by two sets of "rules" on the road. Either it be enforced in full for all or be revised or repealed altogether.
So no matter what comes out of this plate accessory issue, and even though I can leave it on, my clear plate covers will remain off.