Liberate LTO from DOTr
CTALK - Cito Beltran (The Philippine Star) - October 19, 2018 - 12:00am

I have long suggested that the Land Transportation Office or LTO be liberated from its mother unit, the Department of Transportation and make the LTO an independent entity similar if not stronger than the DMV or Department of Motor Vehicles in the United States. This has nothing to do with politics or personalities, but there are many reasons for doing this and the most important reason is in order for the LTO to be freed from being used, abused and placed in hot water time and again by political appointees at the DOTr as they have been both then and now.

Long before the DOTr came into existence there was the DOTC and in times past, many officials would come up with ideas or orders that placed the LTO and its personnel in bad light, the worst being during the previous administration when DOTC officials cooked up the idea of meddling with long established bidding rules as well as issuing instructions that any and all biddings that are P50 million and above will be elevated to the DOTC and no longer under the LTO. That was followed with changing suppliers, forcing the implementation of “new car plates,” changing suppliers for license cards etc., and when things went wrong, dumping the “hot potatoes” in the lap of the hapless LTO officials who always got blamed.

In fairness to Secretary Art Tugade, things have somewhat improved, as the Secretary is known to be a supporter of the projects and efforts of the LTO. But that does not insure or protect the LTO from the meddling and political patronage being pushed forth by certain DOTr officials and consultants. LTO officials have also been victimized by being replaced or deprived of promotions by congressional appointees. Truth be told there have been several instances when DOTr officials issued statements without consulting or clearing with the LTO leadership.

One case I know was when the LTO rolled out the 5-year license card and it was agreed that there would be no publicity or press releases or press conference because the process still needed to be ironed out and might create a flood of customers wanting to be first to get the 5-year license card. Two days later, someone at the DOTr arranged the press conference where members of the media got front row shots of Secretary Art Tugade getting the first issue of the 5-year license card. It seemed great until Tugade was questioned by columnist Boo Chanco on Facebook for getting the driver’s license when he did not even know how to drive!  All that embarrassment could have been avoided if DOTr underlings had enough professional courtesy to ask the people at the LTO. Thanks to LTO damage control, the media was quickly advised that the “show” was simply ceremonial and was a pilot test.

Recently, the LTO was once again in the hot seat as 4 x 4 drivers and vehicle owners went on the warpath over arrests for “illegal modification of vehicles.” Upon learning about the matter, LTO officials quickly acted to address the confusion and protests on social media and held a dialogue with stakeholders and affected groups. But while the LTO was conducting damage control and public consultation with industry players and club presidents, someone from the DOTr decided to lawyer-up, took a hardline position and released a press statement that was non-conciliatory or even combative. Once again, DOTr officials took a position that was very opposite from the LTO and clearly did not consult key officials of the LTO. What I see here is that certain people, particularly consultants at the DOTr believe that since the DOTr is the mother unit, anyone and everyone at the LTO are not entitled to an opinion, don’t matter, and should simply OBEY!

It is about time we put an end to this bullyboy mentality and transform the LTO into the Department of Motor Vehicles or DMV and let them operate free from the meddling and high-handed impositions of DOTr underlings who create problems instead of solutions. In the mean time, it would be more productive for Secretary Art Tugade if he allowed Assistant Secretary Edgar Galvante to manage the LTO without interference or meddling from the minions at the DOTr, not even with regards to issuing press statements or press releases that almost always contradicts the plans and intentions of the LTO. Secretary Tugade must learn to recognize the merits and capabilities of the LTO leadership and personnel all of whom have looked up to him as their leader. They have served him well – don’t sell them short. Trust them – don’t let minions and consultants burn them.

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Motorists who regularly take the service road from EDSA to Pioneer Street, Mandaluyong have been expressing a lot of appreciation for the rerouting scheme that city officials implemented making Pioneer Street one-way up to Reliance St. The city officials simply made a loop around two blocks and suddenly the usual traffic jams in the area have all but disappeared. I also would like to commend Jimmy Isidro the city’s PIO who responded positively to complaints about the traffic and the lack of proper signage and barriers particularly at the intersection of Reliance and Pioneer where tricycle and motorcycle drivers tend to ignore the no-entry/no crossing sign and would even move the plastic barrier.

One traffic enforcer suggests that concrete barriers be placed so tricycle drivers can’t push or move the barriers. Along with that suggestion, Mandaluyong officials have to find a solution or come up with a system to reduce the number of tricycles that have taken over the sidewalk across McDonalds on Reliance Street because pedestrians are now the ones on the street. Sidewalks are for people not illegal terminals.

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