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Top Gear Philippines

Senator Ralph Recto

On May 21, Thursday, there was this awesome Senate hearing that set out to probe into the procurement of new motor-vehicle license plates amounting to P3.8 billion. The inquiry was chaired by Senator JV Ejercito, who was joined by his colleagues Senators Ralph Recto and Alan Peter Cayetano. In attendance were officials from the Department of Transportation and Communications, the Land Transportation Office, and the Land Transportation Franchising and Regulatory Board.

We were invited to attend this hearing but were unable to go due to a prior commitment. Fortunately, a staff member of the Senate forwarded to us the full transcript of the hearing. It's interesting reading, we tell you. So interesting we now truly regret not going. And if the transcript weren't 152 pages long, we'd publish everything here.

What we'll do instead is share with you the exchange between Senator Ralph Recto and LTO assistant secretary Alfonso Tan Jr. This took place almost immediately after the initial formalities had been dispensed with. We'll divide this into two parts, and we'll touch nothing--we'll post everything as is, wrong grammar and all. It's pretty entertaining.

Here it is, in italics.

SEN. EJERCITO: First, the Chair would like to ask LTO or the DOTC representatives. Anybody could answer. Please state briefly the Motor Vehicle License Plate Standardization Program. Sino po sa LTO o sa DOTC? Briefly lang po. Atty. Tan, please.

ATTY. TAN: Good morning, Your Honors. I am representing LTO. First of all, the Motor Vehicle Plate Standardization Program was conceptualized and implemented primarily to deal with the problems surrounding the production, distribution and issuance of license plates. We’ve started implementing this April of last year with the new vehicles and then we started implementing this to replace the old license plates starting January of this year. This is separate from when LTO decided to implement and reimpose the no registration-no travel policy. To clarify, Your Honor, we have not stated that our policy is no plate-no travel. It has always been no registration-no travel.

SEN. EJERCITO: So, Atty. Tan, as long as the vehicles are registered, pag wala pa iyong plate numbers, they can be used by...puwede ho siyang gamitin?

ATTY. TAN: Yes, Your Honor.

(Senator Recto is recognized.)

SEN. RECTO: Thank you very much, Mr. Chairman. Mr. Chairman, just for the information of the Committee, the chairman is correct that I filed PS Resolution No. 31 and we heard this is referred to the Public Services Committee and there was a hearing conducted in March of 2014. So this would be the second time that I will be attending a hearing on the same issue. Mr. Chairman, puwede ho bang magtanong unang-una? Atty. Tan, who authorized na itong programa na palitan lahat ng plate number?

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ATTY. TAN: The program was initiated by LTO and presented to the DOTC, and was approved by the DOTC.

SEN. RECTO: So approved by the secretary.

ATTY. TAN: Yes, Your Honor.

SEN. RECTO: As recommended by the LTO.

ATTY. TAN: Yes, Your Honor.

SEN. RECTO: Anong dahilan kung bakit kailangan palitan lahat ng plate number at hindi lamang iyong mga bagong sasakyan?

ATTY. TAN: Historically, Your Honor, LTO has always proposed standardizing its license plates. It was only implemented now. The reason being, if you look at our streets today, there are 10 different license plates design.

SEN. RECTO: Bakit sampu ang license plates design today? Sino ang may kasalanan kung bakit ganoon karami, ang taongbayan ba o ang LTO din?

ATTY. TAN: I wouldn’t say may kasalanan, Your Honor, but it appears that whenever different--

SEN. RECTO: But the question is, why is it that you have 10 designs today for license plates? Is it because of the owners of the vehicles or is it because institutionally, the LTO, in many administrations, change the plate numbers or the design of the plates?

ATTY. TAN: It would be the latter, Your Honor.

SEN. RECTO: So in effect, para madaling maintindihan, ang may kasalanan din dito, nagpapalit ng design lagi, ang LTO. Ang tanong ngayon, bakit ang taongbayan ang magbabayad niyan? Halimbawa, Mr. Tan, kung walang problema iyong plate number ko, bakit ko kailangang palitan?

ATTY. TAN: As I stated, Your Honor, the program was meant to standardize all license plates, and the only way to do this is to have everyone replace their license plates. The intent also is--

SEN. RECTO: Kahit walang problema iyong license plate ko na inisyu ninyo let’s say, three years ago?

ATTY. TAN: Even then, Your Honor, that’s correct, kahit na walang problema. Because the--

SEN. RECTO: So dagdag gastos lang sa akin iyon?

ATTY. TAN: Tama.

SEN. RECTO: Ganoon din sa taongbayan?

ATTY. TAN: Tama, Your Honor.

SEN. RECTO: Ano ang kapalit naman noon?

ATTY. TAN: Ang kapalit po nito, we are ensured that there is ease in identification for vehicles on the road. If you look at our plates design now, it is not administration or politically oriented. It is agnostic, Your Honor, in that the bottom portion just states the region and not any slogan.

SEN. RECTO: Pero galing lahat iyon sa LTO din. What good has it done to the public na palitan natin lahat ng plate number right now, nabawasan ba iyong traffic?

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ATTY. TAN: It was never meant to reduce traffic, Your Honor.

SEN. RECTO: So hindi dahil sa traffic? Dahil lumalabas dito parang--ilang plaka ba ang papalitan natin?

ATTY. TAN: In all, Your Honor, eight million.

SEN. RECTO: Eight million.

ATTY. TAN: Yes, Your Honor.

SEN. RECTO: Ilan ang pribado doon?

ATTY. TAN: Seven million, Your Honor.

SEN. RECTO: Dalawang milyon, publiko?

ATTY. TAN: One million, Your Honor.

SEN. RECTO: One million. Okay. At lahat magbabayad niyan, iyong eight million na plakang iyan, sino ang magbabayad?

ATTY. TAN: The vehicle and motorcycle owners, Your Honor.

SEN. RECTO: Taongbayan, kahit na walang problema iyong plaka nila?

ATTY. TAN: Not everyone, Your Honor, just the vehicle and motorcycle owners.

SEN. RECTO: Oo nga, kahit walang problema iyong plaka nila.

ATTY. TAN: Yes, Your Honor.

SEN. RECTO: Okay. At sino ang makikinabang dito? Kung papalitan lahat ng eight million na iyan, magkano yung halaga niyan?

ATTY. TAN: From the point of view of the agency, Your Honor, everyone will benefit from this.

SEN. RECTO: No. Again, let me ask, sino magbabayad?

ATTY. TAN: Vehicle owners, Your Honor.

SEN. RECTO: Okay. Magkano ang halaga para palitan lahat noong--

ATTY. TAN: Four fifty, Your Honor.

SEN. RECTO: So total, eight million times 450?

ATTY. TAN: Four fifty for motor vehicle owners, and 120 for motorcycle owners.

SEN. RECTO: So magkano iyong total niyan?

ATTY. TAN: It’s over three billion, Your Honor.

SEN. RECTO: Three billion.

ATTY. TAN: Yes, Your Honor.

SEN. RECTO: So three billion ang dagdag na babayaran ng taongbayan?

ATTY. TAN: Three billion will be paid by the owners, and will go to the Treasury of the government, Your Honor.

SEN. RECTO: Will go to the Treasury?

ATTY. TAN: Yes, Your Honor.

SEN. RECTO: Pero ibabayad ninyo sa plate manufacturer?

ATTY. TAN: Base on the bid price of the plate manufacturer, Your Honor.

SEN. RECTO: So magkano iyon?

ATTY. TAN: I believe it’s 380 for the motor vehicles, and something like 100 for the motorcycles, Your Honor.

SEN. RECTO: Okay. And iyong natitira mapupunta sa gobyerno? Administrative cost?

ATTY. TAN: It goes first to the government, Your Honor, before we pay the supplier.

SEN. RECTO: You pay the supplier. Okay. At hindi mababawasan ang traffic?

ATTY. TAN: Like I said, Your Honor, it was never meant to reduce traffic, Your Honor.

SEN. RECTO: So you’re saying for what purpose again?

ATTY. TAN: To standardize, Your Honor. Ease in identification.

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SEN. RECTO: Why? What is the problem right now with the three year-old vehicle with a plate number issued by government, issued by you?

ATTY. TAN: Your Honor, if we are talking--

SEN. RECTO: You cannot identify that vehicle?

ATTY. TAN: Your Honor, if we’re talking about...first of all, let me state, Your Honor, that when we talk to our enforcers on the road, they mainly rely on the design and series of the plate number to spot the possibly colorum, smuggled, or carnapped vehicles. The example would be old-designed plates on new model vehicles. So if we’re talking about the latest three-year motor vehicles, that would pose a big problem because of the plate backlog we had in 2011 and 2012.

SEN. RECTO: Atty. Tan, I’ll put it simply this way. If you decided na all new vehicles lang ang lalagyan ng bagong design, okay lang siguro. And then by attrition, anyway, mawawala na rin iyong dati at magiging standardized na yung plate. But then you decided or recommended, and the DOTC decided na palitan lahat, na kahit walang problema, sapilitan. Okay. At iyong dagdag na gastos lang ng motor vehicle owners. Iyon ang problema dito.Pangalawa, lahat iyan pupunta sa isang manufacturing company na questionable pa iyong bidding. Now, let me get to that, at this point. You recommended, and the DOTC decided when to do this, na palitan lahat ng plaka?

ATTY. TAN: We started with the new plates April of 2014, Your Honor. And we started replacing the new four-wheeled plates, January of this year.

(NOTE: At this point, Senator Recto turned his attention to Atty. Jose Perpetuo Lotilla, chairman of the 2013 Bids and Awards Committee on Plate Project, under the DOTC. We will jump to the resumption of Senator Recto's grilling of Atty. Tan in the second part of this post.)


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