A disappointing story about getting a PH driver's license

DRIVER'S LICENSE. Brace yourself once you step at the LTO.

DRIVER'S LICENSE. Brace yourself once you step at the LTO.

This is the story of my frustrating encounters at the Land Transportation Office (LTO).

I enthusiastically took driving lessons in college even if I knew driving in Metro Manila would be the ultimate test of patience because of the hellish traffic.

When I applied for a student permit at LTO Manila South District Office, fixers welcomed me with open arms. I've heard of stories about fixers but the ones at this particular LTO office are different. They're relentless. I, of course, did not employ their help because 1) they're expensive, 2) I am very much capable of handling my own permit application, and 3) I say no to corrupt practices. (READ: #NotOnMyWatch: Why some drivers pay bribes to get a license)

After a month, I decided to upgrade to a non-professional driver's license. This is where it gets more interesting. 

Let's begin with the medical certificate. The LTO-certified health centers in its compound would usually offer P150 to P200 for the check up. They have different prices since there are various private clinics handling the said service to check the following: height, weight, eyesight, hearing, and physical fitness. Very basic check up for a not so basic price, right? 

Now comes the fun part: the written examination. The driving school that I attended gave me copies of the questionnaire, that LTO gives to the examinees, with the right answers.

Yup! You read it right. It already had answers. (Unbelievable.)

It's a pretty no-brainer exam, to be honest, but still, why are they allowing motorists to be spoon fed? Aren't these supposed to ensure a driver is safe and equipped?

Here's a sample part of the said questionnaire:  

WRITTEN EXAM. Leaks here and there, it's a giveaway exam.

WRITTEN EXAM. Leaks here and there, it's a giveaway exam.

Next up is the practical driving test. I remember asking an LTO employee about the process. "Kuya, practical [exam] na raw ako. Paano ito?" I asked. (I'm now supposed to take the practical exam. What should I do?)

He responded to offer me an easy way out. "Gusto mo pa mag practical [exam]? Magbabayad na lang dito. Wala ng ganon," he said. (Do you still want to take the practical [exam]? Just pay here. You don't have to go through that process.)

I saw a parked car, that was supposed to be used for the practical exam, but it seemed they didn't want to use it. I had no choice but to take the shortcut they offered and pay my way into getting a receipt, that was proof of a practical exam that I supposedly took. 

After that, I proceeded to pay the license and computer fees, which cost P350 and P67.63 respectively.

Check out this official receipt and see it for yourself:  

OFFICIAL RECEIPT. What happens to the excess change? LTO gets to keep it.

OFFICIAL RECEIPT. What happens to the excess change? LTO gets to keep it.

Naturally, I wanted to know exactly what I was paying for. As a diligent taxpayer, I was curious about the computer fee. Don't I pay taxes to cover government resources like that already? 

A cashier at LTO Cainta told me that it goes to the computer and other equipment that they use to process the licenses. The response wasn't really helpful so I, later on, did my own research. 

According to a forum on the website Motorcycle Philippines, the computer fees cover costs like the system upgrade and data storage. It is not used for interconnectivity but is instead used for registration – driver’s license application/renewal and motor vehicle registration, according to a column on the Inquirer.

As a follow-up question to the cashier, I was curious about the 63 centavos and where each of the supposed 37 centavos change of probably hundreds of Filipinos, who visit the LTO every day, go to. I'm pretty sure they can not and do not issue back to the people their exact change. I know I didn't get mine. 

"Bakit may butal? Saan napupunta yung sukli?" (Why is there an excess? Where does the change go?) I was curious to know.

"Ganon talaga. Diyan o (That's the way it is. There)," he said, laughing, as he pointed to a charity can at the counter. 

Is it just me or is that response not satisfying?

Renewal

After 3 years, I had to renew my non-professional driver's license.

Once again, I needed to go through the bureaucratic process of the LTO. I went to the LTO Pasig branch to renew this time around, hoping to the high heavens they would provide better service.

This time, they would only need your old non-professional driver's license and a medical certificate.

The only clinic they have in their compound, though, asks for a whopping P350 for a medical certificate just to get your height, weight, eyesight, hearing, and physical fitness. That's too much, I thought, so I didn't avail. 

See how the medical certificate looks like below:

MEDICAL FEE. P350 for basic check up is insane.

MEDICAL FEE. P350 for basic check up is insane.

MEDICAL CERTIFICATE. Would you pay P350 for this? I won't.

MEDICAL CERTIFICATE. Would you pay P350 for this? I won't.

I had to go look for a clinic, that offered medical certificates at a cheaper price, to be able to proceed with the renewal. I admit it was a waste of time and resources to go looking for another place that can offer cheaper services, but why did LTO Pasig have to leave me with almost no choice?

I went to the information booth next to ask for the possible date of release of my new card. "Ate, gaano katagal magkakaroon ng license pag nagpa-renew ngayon? Months? After a year?" I asked. (Sis, how long will it take to get the license if I renew today?)

The information lady had no idea. "Mmh, hindi ko pa alam eh. Okay lang ba sa'yo [kung one year]?" she said. (I don't know yet. Is it alright with you if it takes a year?) 

I also asked LTO Cainta when they could possibly release new cards. They told me I can ask again by October which is 3 months away from now. Let's see.

Fix your life, LTO 

No wonder there are reckless drivers out there. It's because the LTO tolerates them.

In reality, even if there are people who are willing to undergo all the proper steps to acquire a driving license, it doesn't happen. It seems LTO does not respect the processes they put in place and would rather just offer the easy way out and take your money instead. 

Does the LTO even know this happens within their ranks? Do they even care? (READ: Corruption at LTO, LTFRB: Unfit drivers, vehicles on the roadCorruption at the LTO, LTFRB: Fixers and bribes

Where does our 37 centavos go? Why couldn't you have offered medical certificates, that only needed very basic information, at a cheaper value in the first place? Why is your information booth not helpful? Surely, I can demand from the government cheaper services the same way they demand taxes from me.

Much has been said but LTO seems to be turning a blind eye. When will change come? –Rappler.com