When I turned 18, I was finally legally allowed to drive. This was a big deal. I pictured driving everywhere, no more jeepney rides carrying guitars to jamming studios, no more waiting for parents to pick us up, no more worrying how to get from A to B. Just drive! But first, I needed to get a driver’s license.
My dad told me to head over to the Land Transportation Office (LTO). It was customary of him to let me do stuff on my own. “Just go and figure it out,” he said.
The LTO was located in a part of town I rarely frequented. Two steel gates stationed the entrance of the office. A look inside showed a horde of people standing around under the heat of the sun. I braced myself for a long day of lining up.
As soon as I stepped inside those gates, seemingly out of nowhere a random guy asked me, “Driver’s license application, sir?”
“Yes,” I said.
Wow, that was efficient. I didn’t have to line up or even approach anyone over the counter. I gave random guy my documents and followed him around as he walked inside the LTO offices processing my papers. I genuinely thought this was how to do it. Remember, I was only 18 years old and lacked life experience in this area.
After the necessary documents were filled out and signed, random guy led me outside to a doctor’s office to have myself medically examined. While there, he handed me a blank answer sheet. Then he gave me another answer sheet with the answers already shaded.
“Just copy the answers,” he said.
Then it finally hit me, this guy wasn’t legit. I didn’t know it then, but the LTO was a government agency notorious for corruption. I was an unknowing participant in this shady system. He was what people call a fixer, someone who could bypass all the necessary red tape to get you what you want usually in an illegal manner.
I figured that I had already gone so far. So I copied the answers to the blank answer sheet and signed my name on it. I didn’t even get a chance to see the actual questions.
The driver’s license application was fast and easy. No written exam. No practical exam. No one even asked me if I knew how to drive.
After my LTO experience, I asked a few of my older friends about how they got their driver’s license. Almost everyone went through a fixer. It was the normal way of processing a license. That was fifteen years ago. I imagine that many of the drivers on the road today came from that era of the LTO. No surprise then that many Cebu drivers suck.
If most of the drivers today didn’t have to go through the actual process of getting a license, then most of us likely don’t know how to drive properly. Heck. Many of us probably shouldn’t be on the road at all.
In the Official Gazette, the official journal of the Republic of the Philippines, there’s a line that is telling when you look at how to apply for a driver’s license.
“*Applicants who fail the Basic Driving Theory Test and/or the Practical Driving Test twice shall not be allowed to apply for the same within a period of 1 year. An applicant who fails either of the tests for the third time will not be allowed to apply for a period of 2 years.” – How to apply for a non-professional license
Imagine if this was enforced in the 90’s. How many of the crappy drivers today wouldn’t be driving? How many of the crappy drivers today would have had to educate themselves to drive? How many of the crappy drivers today would take driving seriously? How much better would the Philippine commuting experience be?