LTO extends expiring licenses, waives penalties
Reeling from a public furor over its inability to issue proper drivers’ licenses, the Land Transportation Office (LTO) announced on Friday that it would extend the validity of driver’s licenses expiring from April 24 to October 31 and waive all penalties arising from late renewal.
“Many of our countrymen have already spoken,” Assistant Secretary Jose Arturo Tugade, head of the LTO, said in a video message sent to the media.
He was referring to mounting criticism that the government has again run out of plastic cards for licenses, a problem that has persisted since the issue first emerged eight years ago, or in 2015.
Millions of motorists have already been affected and, as of Thursday, Tugade admitted that the LTO still had a backlog of 5.2 million already-qualified motorists who had not been issued proper licenses that have already been paid for. The 5.2 million excludes new applications.
As a stopgap solution, the LTO announced on Thursday that the agency would issue temporary licenses on paper, but netizens complained that such identification documents are not acceptable for certain uses.
The government itself, for example, requires the use of proper identification cards in registering subscriber identification modules (SIM) cards in order to comply with the law.
Sen. Grace Poe, chair of the Senate committee on public services, demanded that the Department of Transportation (DOTr), which supervises the LTO, address the problem that has remained unsolved for eight years.
‘Not mere piece of paper’
“We should give them the right and respectable license, not a mere piece of paper,” Poe said in a statement.
“The inconvenience hounding our motorists due to the unavailability of the license cards defeats the purpose of the law,” Poe, who sponsored in the Senate Republic Act No. 10930, which became law in 2017.
The law extended the validity of driver’s licenses to up to 10 years in a bid to widen the period between license renewals.
“The shortage in driver’s license plastic cards should be nipped in the bud before it could create another gargantuan backlog for the Land Transportation Office,” Poe added.
The DOTr on Thursday said it was already “working to be allowed to purchase part of the total volume of license cards needed by the LTO.”
It also noted that, in coordination with the Department of Budget and Management, steps are already being taken to hasten the purchase of the new driver’s license cards “after LTO’s failure to undertake early procurement activities in compliance with existing laws.”