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Top Gear Philippines

Shortage of driver's licenses at Land Transportation Office

I'm not sure if you, the good people of the Land Transportation Office, are reading this humble website, but appealing to you in public is worth the try just the same. It is so because you're screwing Filipino motorists with your inability to supply that small plastic card we call "driver's license." You know, that card we whip out to protect ourselves from double-dealing traffic officers who look at our motor vehicles like rolling ATMs.

Here is the crux of the matter: You charge motorists P350 for the renewal of a nonprofessional driver's license, and yet can't provide them the damn thing. What you give people is a piece of paper with your nauseating logo and that ominous stamp saying this paper is "valid as a temporary license." Surely, this sheet of crap can't possibly cost more than 10 bucks. And yet you charge motorists the price of three lunch meals at a typical office canteen. That's an oppressive, fraudulent scheme. There's no other way to describe it.

So now these frustrated motorists send us letters and photos of complaints. To tell you the truth, I've spent months receiving and reading these messages. It's utterly disheartening. It dries up the spirit. No man should be made to endure being exposed to grievances that concern something as petty as a small plastic card. I don't mind reading letters about cars being smuggled into the country by supposedly legit car distributors. I don't mind reading letters about car owners getting victimized by thieves and vandals. I don't even mind reading letters about vehicles wrongly parked in slots reserved for the handicapped. These are real-world problems. These are issues that deserve my time and energy.

But if I keep reading letters about the country's land transportation agency failing to issue a small plastic card, we need to talk.

As I write this very paragraph, I've pulled out my own driver's license. I'm now looking at it intently. It feels roughly the same as my ATM card. Same size, too. There's the Philippine flag on the upper left corner, and your nauseating logo on the upper right. There's a bunch of details printed on it, including my name, address, birthdate, gender, height, weight and nationality. (I question the need to put one's weight on the license card--it's seriously depressing.) Then there's my unflattering photo. And the expiration date of the license, as well as the license number itself. There's a sort of barcode which I presume to be some kind of a security feature. And then a few laminated holograms that sparkle when you tilt the card against the light.


At the back, there's the list of restrictions and conditions. And then a portion where the license holder puts the name of the person to be contacted in case of an emergency. Mine says "Christina Chua," and I'm not even sure if she'll run to my aid should a stoned bus driver get the urge to make an accordion out of my car.

I'm still looking at the card. And rubbing it. In hopes that I would find some special feature that requires months to complete. Is there an embedded memory chip that somehow stores my life's history? Is there a GPS sensor in there that will send out distress signals should I get lost in the forest? Is the card perhaps compatible with some mobile app that will display my entire motoring record if I place it in front of my phone's camera? As far as I can tell, the answer to all three questions is NO. No as in there is nothing special about this small plastic card. I will bet it's even inferior to the membership card of One Direction's fan club.

The way I see it, this small plastic card I use as my driver's license is as ordinary as anything made of polymer, which is about as abundant as the potholes on EDSA. I haven't heard Lego and Tupperware say that the planet is running out of plastic.

So I can't grasp how the LTO has a shortage of small plastic cards. If the record industry can manufacture jewel cases for Kris Aquino's music CD, the LTO had better move heaven and earth to manufacture driver's licenses.

You know what the biggest joke about this whole mess is? It's that the counterfeiters in Quiapo can readily make a genuine-looking license, while the group tasked to produce the original stuff keeps insisting there's a supply issue.

And what kind of excuses do you give the public? What the hell is printer error? Printer error?! Hello? What kind of unfixable error can the printer possibly make? I'm in the printing business and I have yet to encounter a printing problem we can't solve while playing Crossy Road. One doesn't need half a brain to conclude that there is something shady going on here. Are the suppliers getting paid to begin with? I continue to hear this persistent story about how the money paid by car owners and drivers is being deposited in banks first to earn interest--interest that goes to the pockets of crooks in the agency. The more complaints I receive, the more I'm inclined to believe it.


That small plastic card is every driver's peace of mind. It's an amulet that fends off everything illegal and unpleasant about Philippine motoring. You charge people P350 and take their money, you have all the obligation in the world to give them that laminated peace of mind. Anything short of it is a scam.

Photo from Janice Doloeras

Vernon B. Sarne
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Philippine government driver's license Land Transportation Office LTO motoring motoring issues Philippine motoring
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