Perceptive readers have e-mailed us asking why our September 2013 issue's Show-Off subject, John Patrick Violago, drives his Hyundai Genesis Coupe to school even if he is only 14 years old. Does Top Gear Philippines encourage underage driving. For the record, no, we do not condone underage driving or any motoring act that is clearly against the law.
We have to apologize to our readers, however, as what made it to print was an error on our part. The original interview transcript read:
TGP: What makes this car special to you?
JPV: It's very special to me definitely because at 14 years old, I was blessed to be given a sports car that I have always wanted since I was a child.
So, the car was given to him when he was 14 years old. There isn’t any law against being given a vehicle by your father.
We contacted John telling him that readers are concerned about him driving at such a young age. His reply was that he was already 16 years old at the time of the shoot. He also told us that he is always accompanied by his bodyguard and driver. In fact, he had his driver with him when he arrived at our photo shoot. (We did, however, check his Facebook profile just now and it says there that, in truth, John is only 15 now and won't turn 16 until next year.)
According to the official LTO website, an applicant for a student permit must be at least 16 years old. An applicant below 18 years old requires a parent's or guardian's written consent, with a photocopy of an ID card to prove his identity. If not accompanied by a parent/guardian, the written consent must be notarized.
The penalty given to a student driver operating a vehicle without being accompanied by a licensed driver is a paltry P500.
Surprisingly, the LTO website makes no mention of impounding the vehicle or any possible jail time for lawbreakers. These fines seem very small for something that we believe to be a major traffic offense.
John did tell us that he only uses his car inside their subdivision. Still, there's the matter of his being only 15.
Photo by Vincent Coscolluela