LTO driver’s license processing a disservice to the public

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AL S. VITANGCOL III

First of 2 parts
MY three-year old non-professional driver’s license will be expiring this weekend. Thus, I scheduled a half-day respite from my work schedule to personally renew my license. This was despite the Land Transportation Office (LTO) announcing earlier that the processing time was now down to mere minutes.

My hunch was correct. It was only a media publicity stunt.

I went to an LTO Drivers License Renewal Office(DLRO) located in a popular mall in Las Piñas City on Monday. I arranged to get there at 9 a.m. when the mall opened. A bespectacled man with grayish hair was stationed in the front desk. I told him that I would be renewing my driver’s license. He quickly looked at my driver’s license and said sternly, “Hindi ho kami nag re-renew dito. Issuance lang ho ng bagong license cards kami.” (We don’t renew here. We only issue new license cards here.) He directed me to go to an actual LTO District Office (DO) instead.

Exasperated and faced with no other choice, I proceeded to LTO’s Las Piñas DO. It was about 10 a.m. and the place was already full of people. I decided I would just do it some other day.

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I drove back to my office and decided to call the LTO Central. I dialed the License Division’s two listed numbers – 9267081 and 9215370. One of my calls went through and a certain Ms L (I will not mention names here but I jotted them down anyway) politely answered. I told her my mall renewal office story. She suggested that I call the LTO-Las Piñas DO and gave its telephone numbers. Both lines were busy.

With no one to explain things to me, I telephoned the central operations division of LTO and a Ms M answered. She said that she did not know why the DLRO was issuing only new cards. After a lengthy storytelling, she advised me to contact the LTO-NCR operations division because it was the office in charge of DLROs. Wow, the head office does not know what their DLROs are doing. She gave me the DLRO’s telephone number – 8870726 – if ever I wanted to call and clarify things. I dialed the number she gave me. The other end responded in a beautiful voice, “Mall Administration. How can I help you?” Hello!

Medical examination a ‘legalized’ scam
I set off for another LTO-DO early on Wednesday and arrived there at 8:30 a.m. The waiting area was full but seemed manageable compared to the other DO that I visited two days earlier.

First step, window 1.I was handed a form denominated as “Dermalog Data Capture” and a slip of paper with a printed name of a medical clinic. “Paki fill up po tapos balik po kayo dito after ng medical exam,” I was politely instructed.

Medical examination. I filled out the usual data sheet form. The doctor’s attendant asked me to step on a bathroom scale and noted my weight. She measured my height and then took my blood pressure. I went into the doctor’s room. The doctor, who was not even wearing a mandatory doctor’s coat, handed me a spatula. Cover your left eye. Read the letters. Cover your right eye. Read the letters. He ticked the box, “Fit to Drive” and signed the form. “Good day,” he said.

I paid P200 on my way out. What a scam. And we are all in complicity with it.

What is the purpose of a medical examination as a prerequisite for the renewal of a driver’s license? It is to establish that the driver is still physically fit to drive and that he will not endanger his own life and other motorists’ lives when he is on the road. The LTO top brass should know this!

At the very least, the medical examination should test the driver’s reaction time to various hazards, spatial perception of depth and width, color blindness, and hearing ability. If this is strictly followed, at least a third of our drivers would be stripped of their licenses and road traffic safety will be a lot better.

In developed countries, a driver’s license applicant has to take the medical examination form to a “regular” practicing doctor, who would then assess the medical condition of the applicant. The doctor would be under pain of perjury if he/she would not disclose the real medical condition of the applicant. The type and frequency of the medical examination for a certain class of applicant is determined by the Road Safety Board. It is not uniform for all. One size does not fit all.

I recalled reading an article in Top Gear magazine that the LTO’s medical exam may be the most legal scam in the country. I searched for it; it was an article written by Vernon B. Sarne (August 4, 2015 issue). I am quoting here one notable paragraph (without naming the motorist):

“Another motorist sent us this grievance: ‘I took a leave of absence from work to get my nonprofessional driver’s license at LTO Las Piñas. The medical exam fee was P200, and all I did was read some letters just a few feet away from me. Also paid P250 for a nonexistent test drive. Why do they get away with this? Why do we have to pay for a medical exam that is not remotely close to a medical exam? Why is this system being accepted? And why can’t we do anything about this? Why do I have to be licensed by a mediocre organization that is not even abiding by the very law it is standing for? Because this is the Philippines? F*** that. Where do we go to complain? Where do we go to demand a change?’”

That was more than two years ago. It is now October 2017 and it seems that nothing has changed.

Really, where do we go to demand a change?

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