CONTROVERSIES involving the Land Transportation Office emerge with such frequency these days we can hardly keep up with them.
After the agency demonstrated its inability to provide proper driver’s license cards and number plates for vehicles, and came up with rules of questionable sanity such as the “no plate, no travel” edict and imposing obnoxious fines on motorists who did not use the agency-issued “special” license plate attaching screws (which many vehicle owners found unusable), now serious questions have been raised about the propriety and proper function of its third-party liability, or TPL, insurance program.
TPL is a common requirement in just about every place where vehicles and drivers are actually required to be registered and licensed. It is a basic form of insurance that covers parties who are injured or whose vehicles or property are damaged as a result of an accident. A vehicle owner can, of course, obtain more comprehensive insurance on his own, but at minimum must have TPL. Besides being a reasonable requirement for the sake of public safety, TPL is a benefit to vehicle owners because it is generally far less costly to pay for the insurance than to pay for the consequences of an accident out-of-pocket.
The way it works in the normal world, the one that is not subjected to the irrationality at the Philippines’ Land Transportation Office, the insurance company of the victim of an accident, or the victim himself, files a claim for compensation with the TPL issuer of the party at fault; the TPL issuer covers the costs incurred, and addresses the matter with their customer later according to whatever terms apply to the TPL coverage (such as an increase in rates for causing an accident).
In Congressional hearings this week on the implementation of the TPL policy by the LTO, however, it emerged that it rarely, if ever, works “normally” here. Insurance companies contracted by the LTO to provide TPL to motorists who do not otherwise have insurance are accused of not providing copies of the actual policy to customers, and obliging customers to make their own claims for coverage (i.e., pay for damages out-of-pocket, then seek reimbursement from their insurance companies), which are, not surprisingly, buried in so many rules and conditions that most are not paid, anyway.
Enough is enough.
The LTO, from top to bottom, has clearly demonstrated it is completely unable to manage even the simplest parts of its mandate. While the implications of some lawmakers that the TPL program might be a source of corruption should be legitimately investigated before they are even publicly discussed, it is painfully clear that the LTO is a vast waste of resources that imposes unreasonable costs in money and lost time on Filipino individuals and businesses. The government recently unveiled an ambitious “road map” to boost the company’s automotive industry, and yet continues to put basic oversight of the products of that industry in the hands of an agency of dimwits whose actions do everything possible to discourage vehicle ownership.
Not only is the LTO a costly embarrassment, its dysfunction contributes to the perpetuation of many of the problems an agency of that sort hypothetically should eliminate, such as unlicensed and uninsured drivers and vehicles. It is not enough to try to fix LTO procedures or harangue the existing personnel of the agency into doing their jobs properly, the entire agency should be flushed and replaced.