By MARYA SALAMAT
MANILA – The government’s transport offices have not yet begun to abide by a court’s decision to stop implementing its “illegal and excessive money-making scheme,” they have come up with another plan that, critics from transport groups said, has the same money-making goal. Transport group Piston criticized as another ”money-making scheme” the current aim of the Land Transportation Office to implement what it calls as Motor Vehicle Standardization Plan by January 2013.
George San Mateo, national president of Pinagkaisang Samahan ng mga Tsuper at Operytor Nationwide or Piston, which is now also a registered partylist group, warned that the said motor standardization plan is hardly the solution to the problem of ”colorum” (or vehicles illegally plying certain routes and worsening traffic) as the transportation office has been saying in pushing for it.
The standardization plan will help address the difficulty in prompt identification of counterfeit plates, use of dilapidated plates, the common practice of non-replacement of lost plates, an unreliable motor vehicle database system and concerns on national security and crime, the LTO director for Region 7 told a forum about the plan in Cebu last week. Alita Pulga, chief of LTO Cebu district, said the new plate number will have security features.
Last week, too, in a protest action before the main office of LTO in Quezon City, members and leaders of Piston challenged the LTO to address corruption in its office. The transport group blamed corruption for the problems the LTO director cited. Other leaders of Piston said during their picket in front of the LTO last week that ”colorum” vehicles also could not have continued plying the streets without backers and protectors from traffic officers or transport regulators themselves.
Instead of helping ease traffic and promote improved road discipline, the Motor Vehicle Standardization plan, said San Mateo, will only turn into”another heavy burden and added cost to public transport operators and pivate motorists.”
”Why should public transport operators and private motorists have to pay P450 for another plate when they had already paid for that when they first registered their vehicles with the LTO? Why would they have to pay again after five years to replace their plates?” San Mateo asked in Filipino. He decried the motor vehicle standardization plan as another ”excessive, blatant money-making scheme.”
As with another money-making scheme of the transport offices which Piston had successfully contested in court, San Mateo told the LTO, quoting the Baguio Regional Trial Court, that it is not the LTO’s job to craft and implement revenue-generating measures.
As it is, he said, the sector is already pinched hard by expensive fuel, spare parts and exorbitant penalties for traffic violations.
Piston has also been regularly holding protests in front of the LTO as the office continues to implement another money-making scheme which the court has twice declared as illegal and excessive early this year.
’Not LTO’s job to make money’
The LTO and the Department of Transportation and Communication (DOTC) have at times been charged by transport organizations of having been more interested in implementing money-making schemes than actually working to improve regulation of the country’s transport industry.
Shortly before former president Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo stepped down from Malacañang, the government transportation offices had tried to require motorists to purchase RFIDs from the government. But Piston and other groups campaigned against it. Citing researches that contradicted the government’s claims about the purported usefulness of RFID, Piston and other groups had successfully blocked its implementation. Piston and various groups criticized the RFID requirement as just a government money-making scheme.
And then in early 2009, the transport group Piston launched a campaign against what they described as also a money-making scheme: the LTO and DOTC’s Department Order 39. The said order increased fines and penalties for traffic violations, purportedly to push drivers to obey traffic laws, but at the same time also to comply with a Department of Finance call on government offices to increase its revenue generation.
As such, since 2008 when the LTO-DOTC revised order of fines was first released, it had not only increased the amount and coverage of fines and penalties. According to Piston, it also caused the increase of illegal bribes to traffic officers, over what they said were also questionable traffic violations.
Due to the threat of losing working days when traffic officers confiscate the drivers licenses or issue them traffic tickets, drivers reportedly opt to bribe instead these traffic officers, rather than go through the time-consuming settlement in government offices of what drivers sometimes complain as questionable road disputes.
Drivers challenged the LTO to be serious and systematic at imposing traffic discipline, and work with and not against the drivers and motorists. They also blamed corruption in the bureaucracy as one reason why traffic continues to worsen despite various announced efforts to address it.
Piston aired its criticism of LTO’s plan in its latest protest held last week over the LTO’s failure to abide by the court’s decision to nullify an earlier money-making scheme. Citing two decisions issued by the regional trial court in Baguio City, Piston held a picket in front of LTO main office in Quezon City last week, urging the office to respect and implement nationwide the court decision and permanent injunction order against te LTO-DOTC Department Order No. 2008-39.
The said order had been declared as ”unconstitutional” by the Baguio RTC on May 2 this year. In a decision led by Judge Antonio M. Esteves, the court issued a Permanent Injunction Order and ordered the LTO, DOTC and its deputies to stop implementing the Dept Order 2008-39. On September 10 also this year, the said court junked the Motion for Reconsideration filed by the LTO-DOTC.
San Mateo urged the LTO to ”stop spreading false interpretations (or excuses) saying the order is not yet final and executory.” The transport leader stressed that the Baguio RTC decision is ”final and executory.” San Mateo added that only a temporary restraining order from the Court of Appeals or Supreme Court could now stop the prohibition of the ”consitutional and excessive” revised order in the DO 39.
Piston warned that they will continue holding nationwide coordinated protests if the government’s transport offices did not stop the unconstitutional and exccessive milking of Filipino drivers and motorists. The goverment’s transport-related departments ranked in the top five of its highest revenue-generators.