"This, when our public officials invariably say they mean well."
Who was it who said that “the road to hell is paved with good intentions?” And if we’re talking about good intentions, what can be more noble than saving human lives or at least keep them from suffering needless injury?
No one in his right mind will oppose any law that seeks to prevent road accidents and save lives. This is what the Land Transportation and Traffic Code seeks to achieve. But the implementing agencies of this law, namely the Department of Transportation (DOTr) and the Land Transportation Office (LTO), have come up with a scheme that has vehicle owners up in arms due to nagging suspicion that it could be just another milking cow likely to empty their pockets of hard-earned money amid hard times.
It’s good therefore that Sen. Grace Poe, chairperson of the Senate committee on public services, has pushed for a Senate inquiry into the operation of Private Motor Vehicle Inspection Centers (PMVICs) amid complaints from motorists over higher fees.
In filing Senate Resolution No. 634, Poe seeks to look into the implementation of Department Order 2018-019 of the Department of Transportation (DOTr) and Memorandum Circular No. 2018-2158 of the Land Transportation Office (LTO), and other related issuances.
“The intention behind the law is noble, but the fees following its implementation cannot come at a worse time in the middle of a pandemic where people are barely getting by and now have to add another item in their list of expenses,” Poe said.
The Land Transportation and Traffic Code mandates the LTO to inspect and register motor vehicles. The LTO’s memo authorizes PMVICs to collect an inspection fee of P1,800 from motor vehicles weighing 4,500 kilograms or less.
If the vehicle fails the test, it will be required to undergo necessary repairs and brought back to the PMVIC where the motorist is charged an additional P900 reinspection fee to obtain a clearance. Motorcycles and tricycles are charged P600 for the inspection fee and P300 for the reinspection fee.
PMVICs are further authorized to collect a separate “inspection fee” for miscellaneous transactions like motor vehicle modification.
The senator said that as early as 2018, there had been complaints from motorists that the new fees would “double the registration fees that most motor vehicle owners already have to pay.”
“Just think about it, even those who are making a living, making deliveries and transporting commuters, are being squeezed to the last centavo. So nothing more remains for their families,” she pointed out.
Aside from complaints over the increase in fees, the LTO did not conduct thorough consultations before the privatization of the Motor Vehicle Inspection System (MVIS), which seeks to ensure the roadworthiness of vehicles and prevent road accidents.
Before the program was rolled out, motorists only had to pay an average of P500 for the emission testing fee.
The LTO claims that the new inspection procedure is more thorough as it uses advanced technology to check the car from the inside out.
But there’s another problem: The supposed absence of interconnectivity between the IT system used by the PMVICs and the LTO, which means vehicle owners have to pay for another testing in another testing center.
The lack of transparency in the selection of the PMVICs has fueled suspicion among concerned groups that the program “might provide an avenue for corruption,” according to the lawmaker.
“It’s hard to ignore the accounts from motorists who have experienced glitches in the PMVIC test results that incurred additional costs on their part for reinspection...The unreliability of the test results is problematic and burdensome, to say the least,” Poe added.
Senate Pro Tempore Ralph Recto has also criticized the LTO for imposing new policies without prior consultation in the middle of a pandemic and further adding to the burden of already struggling Filipinos. “The problem is that the LTO keeps running its programs at full speed without even blowing its horn. Policies are like cars―they should be road tested and subjected to independent review,” he said.
Recto urged the agency to “temper [its regulatory power] with compassion.” “Yes, bad driving must be punished, and car ownership and operation incur licensing expenses, but the affordability quotient must be studied in every fee and fine imposed,” the lawmaker added.
It’s not just in the Senate that the DOTr-LTO scheme where the PMVIC scheme would undergo scrutiny with a fine-toothed comb.
Starting today, upon the initiative of Speaker Lord Allan Velasco, the House Committee on Transportation will look into numerous complaints against PMVICs, such as the collection of “excessive fees” from the hapless public.
House Resolution 1518, authored by Deputy Speaker Rufus Rodriguez, also prompted the investigation. Under the resolution, the committee on transportation, chaired by Samar Rep. Edgar Sarmiento, is instructed to probe the alleged “inconsistencies and anomalies” in the private inspection centers.
At this point we must ask: Is the imposition of the PMVIC scheme but the latest manifestation of “regulatory capture”? We can’t help but think so, because with the millions of vehicles on the road at present, the owners of PMVICs will have a captive market and in all likelihood laugh all the way to the bank from what we call “tubong lugaw” in the vernacular.
Our public officials invariably say they mean well. That’s often the trouble, as they do exactly the opposite.