On reading my last column about the Land Transportation Office’s historical propensity for putting hurdles in our way, former agriculture undersecretary Resty Collado wrote in about his own story. “I underwent the same rigmarole when I renewed my driver’s license not long ago. As I entered the clinic, I told the attendant (not a doctor, mind you) that there was no need for me to read the eye chart, as I had already memorized it. She believed me. I did no reading, but I was still made to pay.”
Reader Noel Agcaoili chimed in from Canada to affirm my observation that we are unusual in requiring a medical clearance for all drivers applying for or renewing their license. “Here in Toronto a medical exam is not a requirement in renewing a driver’s license,” he wrote. “The closest thing they have are two simple yes or no questions: (1) Has an optometrist/doctor ever advised you that you need corrective lenses to drive? (2) Has a physician advised you that you suffer from any of the following: heart disease, stroke, diabetes requiring insulin, epilepsy, etc.?” The fact that the Canadian authorities would take your word for it says a lot about honor and honesty in that society. That our own LTO wouldn’t trust us enough to follow Canada’s example suggests lack of honor and honesty in our own.
Another offshoot of this perceived lack is the all-too-often required notarized affidavit to certify when we’ve lost something. When I misplaced a check issued me by a private institution and requested for a replacement, I was required to produce a notarized affidavit of loss, even if they could easily notify the bank to stop payment on the check, which they needed to do anyway. Collado also wrote of a similar experience: “At the Calamba toll gate of the South Luzon Expressway, the scanner wouldn’t read my RFID sticker. The tollgate keeper asked for my account card, but I couldn’t find it in my bag. I volunteered the license plate number of my car (so she could look up my account in their system). She said that wasn’t good enough. Luckily, I had with me the receipt of my (prepaid load) purchase the day before. The next day, I stopped at a RFID satellite office, ready with my P300 to pay for a replacement card. They wouldn’t give me one. They said I need an affidavit of loss. I asked if they had a form for it, and they gave me one. I filled it out, but still no dice. I must have it notarized first, they said. Putrageeze!!”
I could well imagine the steam coming out of his nose and ears, as I know the feeling, having been in similar situations before. Can’t we Filipinos trust ourselves to be truthful, that everything has to be notarized?
Perhaps there’s nomore embarrassing illustration of the problem than last week’s amusing news on the closure of the “Honesty Store” at the Manila Police District (MPD)—inspired by the well-known Honesty Café in Batanes that is left unattended, relying on the honesty of customers to leave the right payment for whatever goods they take. The MPD version even has a prominent sign that reads “Manila’s Finest are Honest.”
Surprise, surprise: It seems they are not (well, not all of them are). They closed it down as it was losing up to P1,000 a month. The general manager of the MPD Finest Brotherhood Cooperative was quoted as saying that “some buyers did not pay the correct amount, while others were getting more than the actual change due them.” She ventured on to say that “Honesty Store is not applicable in MPD, and for that matter anywhere, except in Batanes.”
Sad, but does this seeming lack of honesty, especially in the very people expected to uphold that virtue, justify those LTO-required medical exams and rigorous requirements for accreditation of clinics and doctors administering those exams, then? I don’t believe so. I did argue that mental fitness is probably the more problematic attribute we should be training and testing drivers for.
Some readers who wrote in were much too unkind to the LTO, declaring that it is they who need a mental test. I don’t think they do. They, along with many others in and out of government, just need to get out of the hurdle mindset that afflicts too many among us.