Fewer applicants for driver’s licenses in Surigao blamed on new LTO order

SURIGAO CITY (MindaNews/27 November) – The number of applicants for driver’s license dropped to an all-time low in Surigao del Norte after the Land Transportation Office imposed a new requirement, an LTO official said Thursday.

Emelita S. Orongan, chief of LTO-Surigao del Norte said the drastic drop in the number of applicants started last November 12 when they implemented Administrative Order No. AVT-2015-029 requiring applicants for renewal of professional driver’s license to submit National Bureau of Investigation and police clearances.

The order issued by LTO chief Alfonso Tan Jr. requires drivers to submit NBI and police clearances that they have not been convicted of any offense involving “moral turpitude or reckless imprudence resulting from reckless driving.”

The regulation took effect on Nov. 9, and also covers applicants for student’s permits and bus conductor’s licenses.

Orongan said their office used to process 100-120 driver’s licenses a day, but after the new AO took effect the number has dropped to 5-6 daily.

She said she expected this to happen noting the new requirement means an added burden to the applicants.

Department of Transportation and Communication Secretary Joseph Emilio Abaya suspended the implementation of the order on Tuesday night after it drew strong criticisms from the public.

But Orongan said she would still require applicants to submit NBI and police clearances pending receipt of Abaya’s order.

“As long as we have not a copy of the suspension order of the AO- AVT-2015-029, we will still implement it,” she said, but added she had torn down Tan’s AO posted at their office.

The controversial AO could no longer be found at the DOTC and LTO websites.

Alberto I. Escuadro, releasing officer of LTO-Surigao del Norte said their work load reduced in the past few days because of the new order.

“Applicants are still required to submit those documents. That means more time and money to be spent for that purpose,” he said.

Applicants interviewed by MindaNews said they wouldn’t pursue getting a driver’s license.

Jose Liboon of Cagdianao town in Dinagat Province said, he didn’t know the new policy and couldn’t afford to pay for the requirements.

Rodel Clave of Dapa town in Siargao Island, Surigao del Norte was surprised by the new order. He said it would mean additional cost.

Residents of 20 towns in Surigao del Norte including Surigao City and seven towns of Dinagat have to go to Butuan City to get an NBI clearance.

“There is no guarantee you can get your clearance right away because you might have a namesake who is on the NBI’s list of suspects and you have to wait for more days,” Clave said.

In Surigao City, getting police clearance requires a barangay clearance which means another payment.

Joel Albarando, former president of Pinagkaisang Samahan ng mga Tsuper at Operator Nationwide- Surigao del Norte Chapter said the new order adds another layer of red tape to motorists’ license applications.

Albarando pointed out that drivers will have to wait in long queues to secure clearances from the two agencies.

“Why can’t these government agencies share files? Kining bag-ong order hiwi nga dalan kini, pamaagi nga pangkwartahan lang ang mga tawo (This new order is a crooked path, a way to milk the people),” Albarando said.

The new order also affected some downstream businesses.

Dr. Ernesto I. Gallardo, a retired surgeon, said he earned little at his medical clinic the past few days due to LTO’s new order.

Gallardo and his wife Celma, also a retired doctor, have ventured into a medical clinic business issuing medical certificates to applicants for driver’s licenses. (Roel N. Catoto/MindaNews)