Sunday, February 28, 2021

In response to Senator Grace Poe

Wazzup Pilipinas!

The Department of Transportation (DOTr) takes exception at the apparent zeal and relentless ardor of Senator Grace Poe to unduly shut down a program of the Executive branch, meant to elevate the standards of road worthiness of vehicles, and uphold ROAD SAFETY.

Yesterday, Senator Poe alleged that the DOTr and the Land Transportation Office (LTO) are yet to officially declare that vehicle inspection at Private Motor Vehicle Inspection Centers (PMVICs) is no longer mandatory, and that its inspection fees were reduced to the same level as Private Emission Testing Centers (PETCs), since she said, no official documented order had been issued.

The DOTr was asked to comment on this specific assertion by the Senator, and our prompt response was to provide the media and the public with a copy of an official LTO Memorandum dated 11 February 2021, which specifically directs LTO regional directors and personnel concerned to ensure the strict implementation of the President’s order to make vehicle inspection from PMVICs non-mandatory, as well as the directive of the DOTr on lowered PMVIC inspection fees. Though not required by law, the said Memorandum has been submitted for publication at the Office of the National Administrative Register of the U.P. Law Center.

This response clearly debunked the false assertion of Senator Poe.

Now, since the senator is resorting to obfuscation and muddling the issue of the PMVICs with unfounded and unfair accusations of corruption and incompetence, allow us to set the record straight.

Senator Poe's initial statement refers to the alleged absence of a formal order or issuance. The DOTr promptly belied the claim by showing the actual memorandum. With this, the good senator then tried to re-frame the issue by dismissing the memo as an internal documentation, and not an official presentation and pronouncement for public consumption.

Allow us to remind the good Senator that when the matter of lowered inspection fees and reversing the mandatory requirement of the PMVIC was announced by Presidential Spokesperson Harry Roque on 11 February 2021, the DOTr and LTO fully complemented the same pronouncement by formally holding a virtual press conference, on the very same day, together with representatives from the health and environment sectors, and officers of the Vehicle Inspection Center Owners Association of the Philippines (VICOAP).

The said policy shift, as ordered, was widely announced and circulated by both mainstream and social media, with official information provided by the official spokesperson of the President, the DOTr and the LTO, and confirmed by the VICOAP.

In fact, even Senator Bong Go made a public pronouncement lauding the efforts of the DOTr to reach out to PMVIC owners and push for a pandemic special rate to ensure that no unnecessary burden is imposed on Filipinos. Hence, despite expanding the requirements for vehicle inspection and improving mechanisms to ensure road worthiness of vehicles, the cost to be shouldered by motorists will remain unchanged. The new inspection system will not be mandatory, and reinspection fees will likewise be waived.

Presidential Spokesperson Harry Roque also made a clarificatory announcement on 12 February 2021 that what is not mandatory is the inspection through a PMVIC, not the vehicle inspection itself.

As for several other issues pertaining to irregularities and corruption on the operation of PMVICs, we stipulate the following:

In the committee hearing, we already exhaustively explained that the alleged irregularities were actually operational deficiencies, to be viewed as birth pains of a new system that can be remedied immediately. The members of VICOAP have magnanimously submitted themselves to the committee in the most transparent manner, admitting the operational lapses, and how they plan to institute corrective measures. Further, they have been openly presenting their technology-driven system, and how its modern process with minimal human intervention, can eliminate or mitigate corrupt practices, which are now intrinsic in the old and inefficient emission testing system.

All documents requested from the DOTr were immediately submitted to the committee, including links to live stream video footages of the actual and real-time PMVIC accreditation process. These included the conduct of a coin toss in case of a tie, where there is a 50-50 probability for selection for each applicant. Surely, we cannot fix or corrupt the outcome of a coin toss done publicly.

In earlier interviews, Senator Poe likewise questioned the absence of a bidding process. Bidding is not required for projects which do not involve public fund such as the PMVIC program.

As to the charge of oligopoly or that certain parties were favored in the selection, the fact that the VICOAP exists, with more or less 60 different individuals as members, belie this misguided charge.

Above all, since the Senator stipulated what we could have done as an act of good faith, we most certainly stipulate to Good Faith as well.

We believe that good faith is akin to asking for clarification when one determines a document as obscure. It can be resolved in good faith through proper, open communication between the two parties, outside the specter of a media frenzy.

Good faith is respecting the decision of the President on a policy shift through the implementation of a program, and not insisting on an outright end of a process meant to significantly change a patently corrupt practice. The last time we checked, the DOTr and the LTO are in the Executive Branch of government, and we obey the lawful orders of our Chief Executive.

Good faith is when we all recognize the system of governance and the equal footing of the Executive, Legislative and Judicial, without having to impose or insist on a policy shift beyond the scope of our responsibility.

Good faith is when we mutually recognize and respect our respective mandate, such as the Executive recognizing the oversight function of Congress. Thus, we accede and accord the proper representation when required.

Good faith is when parties accord mutual and proper respect, and trust during proceedings, and not resorting later to public pronouncements and posturing that runs counter to what was achieved and agreed upon during the hearings, because of the need to pander to populist yet misguided sentiments.

The DOTr fully respects Senator Poe as a legislator. We do not dictate upon her on how to craft laws, nor even suggest to suspend the implementation of any law she principally authored. But, to insist on encroaching on our prerogative and function to implement a program or policy beneficial to the people is altogether a different matter.

We do hope that with the committee's zealousness to look into the PMVIC, it will demonstrate the same enthusiasm in scrutinizing the current system of PETCs, their proven gross deficiency and corrupt practices which we have been earnestly trying to reform. The PMVIC is the modern, technology-driven wellspring, and a vast improvement from the dubious and inefficient PETC.

We are also seeking clarification if the committee's direction is towards a complete elimination of a motor vehicle inspection system, which is grounded on existing laws of the land, and under the purview of the Executive branch.

We do hope and pray that the committee intends to enlighten our people on the value of a motor vehicle inspection, and how our government is moving forward to significantly improve the system.

With all due respect to the Senate Committee on Public Services, we remain most committed to a resolution that will be most acceptable and beneficial to all stakeholders, and still with the end view of upholding the best interest of the people and the nation.

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