Editorial | The Philippine Star | 

A new year is upon us. Among the wishes of Filipinos has to be the release of driver’s licenses and vehicle license plates by the Land Transportation Office. Processing of the plates and driver’s licenses by the LTO in the previous year moved as slowly as vehicular traffic in Metro Manila during the lockdowns for the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation summit.

Motorists and drivers complied with all the requirements and paid the fees for the licenses and plates. But they have suffered the inconvenience of going to LTO offices several times over many months, each time waiting in line just to find out the status of the goods they have paid for, only to be told that the plates and driver’s licenses were still not available.

Transport officials have explained that delivery of the items has been snagged by litigation involving suppliers. But the wait of several months has fueled speculation that the funds intended for the plates and licenses have been diverted and the public has paid for ghost items.

The failure to deliver goods on time is just one of the public disappointments in the performance of the LTO and its mother agency, the Department of Transportation and Communications. The DOTC has also been criticized for the dismal state of the Metro Rail Transit, which certain quarters have blamed on corrupt maintenance contracts awarded without public bidding to individuals with the right connections.

Shortly before Christmas 2015, the DOTC awarded another multibillion-peso MRT 3 maintenance contract without public bidding. In both maintenance deals, DOTC officials claimed the existence of an emergency that necessitated a negotiated procurement. The Office of the Ombudsman spared DOTC Secretary Joseph Emilio Abaya from indictment in the previous maintenance deal and filed charges for graft rather than the non-bailable offense of plunder.

The administration has ignored calls for the replacement of Abaya. But the LTO chief has reportedly quit effective Monday, to be replaced by the current head of the Land Transportation Franchising and Regulatory Board. The administration must show that this is not just a game of musical chairs but will lead to better service. This should start with the delivery of goods long paid for by the public.