ONE of the most odious characteristics of the Aquino administration was its utter disregard for welfare of the transacting public. And the poster child for this kind of callous governance was the Department of Transportation, which saddled us with a rickety and unreliable city train service; Third World public transport services; and an administrative system that could not issue drivers licenses and license plates on time.
Given the systemic failure in this sector, one could argue that to make a major impact, it is here that the Duterte administration must begin righting the wrongs.
The pace at which this is being done has been frustrating, however.
Fourteen months after President Duterte took office on the promise of change, the Land Transportation Office of the Transportation department finally announced that it would begin issuing new driver’s license cards with a five-year validity in late August. The agency, however, said the new licenses will initially be available only to new renewal applications. It has yet to address the backlog of 3.6-million driver’s licenses that have already piled up.
And as huge as this deficiency is, it is almost trivial compared to the mind-boggling 7.1-million backlog in vehicle license plates that has built up in the last couple of years.
That the new administration has not addressed this backlog in more than a year suggests a lack of urgency that fails to consider that, at P450 per license plate that vehicle owners have already paid, this represents P3.195 billion in public funds that have been collected, for which no goods or services have yet been rendered. Put another way, this is a debt of P3.195 billion that the government still owes vehicle owners, who after more than a year have nothing to show for their payment.
The state of affairs cannot be allowed to persist for much longer.
Nor can the continued lack of accountability, particularly of high officials from the previous administration who failed to fulfill their duty to the people.
In December 2016, anti-corruption groups filed graft charges against former Transportation secretary Joseph Emilio Abaya for the anomalous purchase of P3.8 billion worth of license plates. This was followed by another set of graft charges in May 2017 for Chinese coaches bought in 2014 that turned out to be unusable.
These injustices cry out to be righted, but it seems that even in justice, there is a backlog.
Just this month, Justice Secretary Vitaliano Aguirre II said he needs to hire 1,000 prosecutors to handle a backlog of 14,000 cases.
We trust that some of those will be assigned post haste to the cases involving Abaya, who famously declared that he is answerable only to God. With a few convictions, he might finally be convinced that he is also accountable to his fellowmen.