Land Transportation Office

Jay Art Tugade exits LTO over drivers’ license mess, differences with Bautista

Bea Cupin

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Jay Art Tugade exits LTO over drivers’ license mess, differences with Bautista

Land Transportation Office (LTO) Chief Jay Art Tugade leads the traning session for its traffic personnel on the use the agency's new devices that will be used for traffic enforcement in the country, during ceremonies at the LTO Main Office in Quezon City on January 30, 2023. The devices, an E-top or temporary operators permit for traffic violators and a body worn mobile camera device to be used as documentation for traffic apprehension both for the protection of the enforcer and the motorist.

Jire Carreon/Rappler

In a letter to President Marcos, the Duterte-era transport chief’s son says he’s resigning not because the mess was his fault

MANILA, Philippines – Land Transportation Office (LTO) chief Jose Art Tugade on Monday, May 22, resigned over the shortage in plastic cards for drivers’ licenses. 

“Despite having no fault or negligence in my office; I hereby respectfully tender my irrevocable resignation effective June 01, 2023,” said Tugade in his letter to President Ferdinand Marcos Jr. 

In the letter, Tugade also included a list of his “achievements” in six months of office, as well as the timeline of events that led to the current shortage in plastic cards for licenses. 

Curiously, he highlighted a different reason for his resignation in a statement released by the Palace.

“Even as DOTR [Department of Transportation] and LTO both aim to succeed in serving the public, our methods to achieve that success differ. For this reason, I am stepping down, so Secretary Jimmy Bautista will have the free hand to choose who he can work best with,” said Tugade’s statement from the Presidential Communications Office. 

“I will continue to root for the LTO’s success even as a private citizen, because I will always share in Sec. Bautista’s belief that our offices can be a formidable force for good in our country,” added Tugade in the Palace-released statement. 

His resignation is effective beginning June 1, 2023. 

Six-month stint 

Tugade, the son of Duterte-era transportation chief Art Tugade, has had a very short but eventful stint in government under the Marcos administration. 

In late October 2022, the Palace announced that he was appointed acting general manager of the Manila International Airport Authority (MIAA), which operates and administers the Ninoy Aquino International Airport, the central hub for air travel and transport in the Philippines. 

But just a few weeks later, he was moved to the LTO instead because, said Bautista, Tugade was “better suited” there than MIAA. 

Drivers’ license mess

Six months later, Tugade lamented that the “many achievements” of the LTO were “overshadowed” by the shortage in plastic cards for drivers’ licenses. 

While Tugade did not explicitly blame the transportation department for the mess, the timeline he submitted pointed heavily to decisions and delays from the department as a reason for the shortage. 

According to his own timeline, Tugade flagged the pending shortage of cards in late 2022 and had signed the purchase request to begin procurement by early 2023. 

However, said Tugade, the DOTr said he could only authorize purchases of up to P50 million, even if his predecessor was allowed to sign purchase requests of up to P1 billion. 

The department later decided that only its bids and awards committee would be allowed to procure bids worth over P50 million – a move that Tugade asked the department to reconsider. 

The LTO chief approached both Speaker Martin Romualdez and Special Assistant to the President Anton Lagdameo in separate instances to “seek assistance” and “ask for help” over the department’s special order. 

From early 2023 up until his resignation, either Tugade or the LTO wrote to the DOTr at least five times to warn them about the status of drivers’ license cards and vehicle plates. – Rappler

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Bea Cupin

Bea is a senior multimedia reporter who covers national politics. She's been a journalist since 2011 and has written about Congress, the national police, and the Liberal Party for Rappler.