With no valid driver’s license to pull out of my purse, I went to the Central Office of the Land Transportation Office (LTO) on Dec. 4 for the first time to get the green light to drive again.
My license expired two years ago and to renew it, I was told that I have to go through the same process as getting a new one. That is, I have to take the driving exams—practical and written—all over again. That after being a driver’s license holder for 40 years.
I wonder what LTO chief Virginia Torres was thinking when she imposed this on people whose driver’s licenses have been expired for two years and more.
Why not punish drivers who commit offenses and who get traffic tickets by making them take the examination again? Is forgetting to renew a license such a big offense as to have to go through tests again and go through the rigorous process of getting a license in the main office of the LTO?
Failing to renew expired licenses can happen to people who work abroad like overseas contract workers, people who have lived abroad for some time or people who do not drive regularly like me.
I went to the LTO as early as 9:30 a.m. where I was greeted by the guard who asked me if I already had the required urine drug test. As I had no idea of the procedure, a man offered to help me out.
He brought me to a dirty, dingy-looking place outside the LTO compound where I was supposed to have the test. I was charged P300—no receipt.
Next stop was an eye test. I was cleared and charged P100—no receipt.
Drug test, check. Medical test, check. I was then ready to apply for a driver’s license.
The process starts by filling out the application form and submitting it to the cashier. The application form costs P167.63. What’s with the loose change? Where does it go?
Then I was made to go to a review room so I could, well, review for my exam. After an hour, my name was called to the examination room. I was given a seat, but I had to cool my heels for 15 minutes with five other examinees because they ran out of test papers.
They were still fixing the copying machine to reproduce more test papers. The test papers are photocopied as applicants arrive. Why not have them mimeographed in big quantity, which is more economical than the photocopy?
After the exams, those who make it are instructed to go to the “puno ng langka”—a shed beside the langka tree—for a seminar. There we were gathered at 12 p.m.
The lady who was to conduct the seminar arrived at 12:45 p.m. and, like a drill sergeant, ordered those standing at the back to sit down. We were about 30 people there and there were those who were standing because they could not see her well from behind. Instead of standing, she was seated while giving the seminar. Perhaps because she had a filling lunch. None of us had lunch yet. I spoke in defense of the people standing behind but she was quite arrogant and claimed she could be seen well.
The tract test was next. I felt sorry for those who did not have cars of their own to test drive as they had to pay P250 to rent a car and P150 for the motorcycle. This was only for a five-minute test drive.
Is this another racket in the LTO? I brought my car so I did not need to rent a car.
License No. 4 or No. 2?
But there was another hitch. I was asked if I wanted a driver’s license No. 4 or a driver’s license No. 2. Driver’s license No. 4 is a license for automatic cars only while driver’s license No. 2 is for both automatic and manual.
For No. 2, I would have to test drive a manual car that I would have to rent from them. But I was told I did not need to test drive an automatic. Is that logical? Who makes rules like these?
I passed the practical test and was made to go to window No. 7, the cashier. Another wait. When my name was called, I went up to the cashier where the cashier pointed to the sign beside her that says, P642.63.
The cashier must have been so sick and tired of saying the amount over and over that she posted three signs beside her. One is P167.63, another, P642.63 and the third, “Umupo at maghintay na tawagin (Be seated and wait to be called).”
5 hours later
Then final stop at window 11. My name was called and I was given my license. It was 2:30 p.m. I was at the LTO for exactly five hours to renew my license.
I had to skip work for this. I was already able to make friends there, with applicants like me. They, too, had to miss work. We were congratulating each other when we finally got our license.
I told them I was going to write about this in the Inquirer or report it directly to the LTO in the hope that we could improve the system.
In this day and age, I’m sure we can do better. This whole process of license renewal does not have to be this complicated, tedious and costly for our people.
I was so happy when Mar Roxas was made head of DOTC and sad when he was removed from that office. I have so much faith in this guy, who I believe could change our old ways.
I hope our LTO chief will take time out to review this. I am not sure she is aware of every step one has to go through in renewing one’s license in this country. Surely, there is a more efficient and convenient way.
(Editor’s Note: Maria Luisa Garcia-Morera, a concerned citizen, is a resident of Pasig, Metro Manila.)