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Crackdown vs illegal use of No. 8 car plates starts

Speaker Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo orders recall of protocol plates

Authorities have started a crackdown on the unauthorized use of No. 8 protocol plates, which are usually reserved for members of the House of Representatives, following a recent road rage incident involving a vehicle bearing the same license plate.

The Philippine National Police-Highway Patrol Group (PNP-HPG) seized on Friday  a red Chevrolet Suburban and a black Ford E150 with the No. 8  plates in Pasig City.

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The two vehicles were seized on the same day that the vehicle owned by musician Jojo Valerio was confiscated.

Valerio’s Toyota FJ Cruiser with a No. 8 plate earlier figured in a road rage incident in Pampanga province which was captured on video that went viral on social media.

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The Chevrolet Suburban even had stickers of logos of the Office of the President on the front windshield and of the House of Representatives on the rear windshield.

Senior Insp. Atanacio Alvarez, team leader of the Task Force Limbas Mobile 14, told the Inquirer that a concerned citizen called the police unit about the vehicles parked at the Trinidad Homes Subdivision in Barangay Manggahan, Pasig City.

His team then launched the operation that led to the recovery of the vehicles.

Alvarez said the owner of both vehicles claimed that the No.  8 protocol plates and the stickers were already attached to the vehicles when these were given to him as payment for a debt.

Expired plates

Earlier, PNP-HPG Director Chief Supt. Roberto Fajardo warned that the Land Transportation Office has not issued new No. 8 protocol plates since the 16th Congress.

He said using these expired plates was unauthorized, and would lead to the confiscation of the vehicles and a fine of P5,000.

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According to the LTO, the special No. 8 license plates currently being used by members of the House of Representatives have technically expired in 2016.

But LTO has not apprehended any incumbent congressmen still using the protocol plates, as the agency leaves it to the lower chamber to settle among themselves whether to recognize the protocol plates particularly after House Speaker Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo ordered their recall.

“They are entitled to the use of the protocol plates, just that the ones they use aren’t valid anymore,” LTO law enforcement director Francis Almora said in an interview. “So we will give a chance to legitimate congressmen still using the plate, but we will double down on unauthorized motorists using it.”

Early this week, House Majority Leader Rolando Andaya reiterated Arroyo’s instructions for the return of the protocol plates following the road rage incident.

Under Department Order No. 2015-3, protocol plates are used mainly to identify officials and the locality they represent.

It’s not equivalent to, for example, exemption from traffic enforcement rules, and are only valid during the length of the official’s term.

In the case of the No. 8 plates, they are only valid for three years—or the duration of their term in Congress.

Special treatment

Still, the incident reignited questions about special treatment accorded to and sense of entitlement among motorists sporting the special plate.

According to  Almora, the last batch of No. 8 plates they issued were for members of the 16th Congress (2013-2016).

He added that they were not able to produce plates for the 17th Congress amid controversies surrounding the bidding.

Former House Speaker Pantaleon Alvarez earlier moved to simply place stickers indicating the effectivity dates, but this did not prosper.

Some lawmakers whose protocol plates have already expired have already returned the plates, Almora said.

“Out of respect for incumbent congressmen, however, we will not apprehend them as long as they prove they are legitimate lawmakers,” he said.

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