Done in 30 minutes
Recently, the President, personally went to a Land Transportation Office (LTO) outlet in Tayuman, Manila to renew his driver’s license. Like the rest of us folk, he did not arrive by VIP transport nor did he demand any VIP treatment. Needless to say, the President was happy to note that everything was over and done with in less than 30 minutes. Needless to say, again, no fixers, official or otherwise, were involved. Which stands to reason because ever since the President Fidel V. Ramos (FVR) era when the LTO farmed out the computerization and processing of licenses to the private sector via BOT (Build Operate and Transfer), the need for fixers to speed up processing was eliminated.
Sotto our savior
Last year, Senator Tito Sotto authored a law terminating the need for drug testing with every license renewal, thus, in the best rendition of customer service, speeding up the process.
FVR, BOT and LTO computerization
During the FVR era, it was envisioned that the LTO's processes from vehicle registration, motor vehicle inspection, nationwide traffic violation database were to be integrated in a comprehensive computerized system by BOT with the private sector. But then succeeding administrations were not able to follow thru.
This license renewal Nirvana started to go haywire after DoTC Sec. Ping de Jesus, ‘retired’ in 2011. First the LTO, thru Assistant secretary Virginia Torres, got involved in a court case contesting the true ownership of Stradcom, the private sector provider of the license renewal computerized services that license holders have been enjoying for more than a decade. Recently, the Supreme Court decided this ownership issue, so it should be moot and academic. But no.
Meantime, the new DOTC leadership, continues to pile up some PhP 4-Billion in arrears to Stradcom since 2011. No small beer for if Stradcom were a medium sized company, it would have folded up.
MRT3 finger pointing
But then, this has been consistent with the behavior of the DOTC when it comes to some of its contractors. Witness the arbitration case filed by MRT holdings, owners of MRT 3, to force DOTC to pay up for more than a couple of years. Meantime, MRT Holdings blocked DOTC's plans to import trains from Dailan Locomotive, claiming DOTC as Operations and Management contractors of MRT usurped the right of the owners. DOTC is now on a media blitz to blame MRT holdings for delaying commuter relief through the purchase of trains, even though MRT3's overcapacity was already manifest and evident during the GMA era, and nothing was done by the MRT managers since.
Enjoy it while it lasts
In the meantime all of us license holders will only have a few years left of this paragon of license renewal with uncharacteristic bureaucratic ease.
Anyone but Stradcom
DOTC is now drafting new terms of reference for bidding of LTO computerization. The criteria now includes years of running similar computerization schemes abroad, which effectively excludes Stradcom.
Snail mail vs. while you wait
But what hurts the most is that instead of waiting for the renewal, all licenses will be delivered to the license holder's permanent address in 30 days. Say good bye to our existing American DMV style of a license renewed while you wait. In terms of customer service, it’s a definite retreat to the Stone Age. Did the DOTC even bother consulting the LTO on this?
We've seen this top-down cavalier attitude to customer service before. Witness the latest directive on new license plates. We are no longer allowed to choose the ending plate number to avoid coding days, pushing vehicle owners to the more expensive vanity plates. To think, it is precisely because of the delay in issuing new plates caused by the LTO that MMDA's ‘coding’ now includes the conduction sticker number. Things can only get worse as MMDA is planning on aborting the ‘coding window’ for EDSA in anticipation of traffic caused by metro infra projects that P-Noy is cramming for the remaining 2 years of his term.
Hoping for stalled bidding this time
Let’s hope that since the DOTC as of late has been notorious for late bidding, this change in license renewal contract will take up to the next election in two years’ time. But if we elect a President Roxas, whose trusted lawyer-technocrats have been running DOTC policy since 2011 and even now under Secretary Abaya. Then expect the fixers, ever creative to fill in the customer service vacuum created by anti-convenience bureaucrats to be back and the PUV drivers, whose livelihood depends on their licenses, taking to the streets in protest.
Paging Senator JV
Time to call on our legislators to save us. We've lost a pro-motorist legislator in former Congressman Jack Enrile who was pushing for interoperability of electronic toll collection systems for all of our many upcoming tollways. Recently, Senator JV Ejercito, untainted by any of the lard largesse of the pork barrel scam, sponsored a bill to enforce installation of speed limiters on public buses. Perhaps the Senator can take up the cause of some 10 million or so driver's license holders who face catastrophic inconvenience if the DOTC gets its way.