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On license plates

February 2013
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More than 2 years ago, the current administration made an inspired move after the President mentioned in his inaugural speech that he was among those who didn’t like “wangwang” (sirens) and associated these with abusiveness, of feelings of entitlement among road users. The use of sirens and other similar devices tells people that the user is an “important” person whose time is more valuable than others.

Whatever happened to the drive against “wangwang” in all its forms? The proliferation of commemorative plates, for one, can be a form of “wangwang.” While the Land Transportation Office (LTO) came up with a memo a few years ago providing clear instructions on how the commemorative plate should be displayed (i.e., on top or above the legal plate), many have returned to the practice of replacing the license plate (hiding it) with the commemorative one. This is especially true for those plates bearing police, military, government, and other agencies or organizations that can be used to make traffic enforcers think twice about apprehending a motorist for legitimate traffic violations. One sees such plates everywhere screaming “PNP,” “CIDG,” “NBI,” “PMA,” “Prosecutor,” “Councilor,” etc. and you know these are statements that are meant to intimidate traffic enforcers, which is often denied by the guilty party.

Then there is also the abuse of special plates, particularly those supposedly assigned to lawmakers. How many people have “8” as their license plates? Do children or staff of senators and congressmen enjoy the same privileges as the elected official? In the past, plates bearing “8” also indicated the district represented by the person supposedly using the vehicle. And so you would know, for example, if the person happens to be from the 1st District of Iloilo or the 3rd District of Quezon City. The same goes for vehicles bearing “16” and other special plates indicating someone holding a high position in government. Nowadays, even family members and staff members of these officials use the special plates, thereby extending to them the courtesies usually given to elected or appointed officials like not being covered by the number coding scheme in Metro Manila. This should not be the case for such “extensions” if we are to enforce the law firmly and fairly.

In certain cases, worse are those who use neither license plates or authorized commemorative ones. There seems to be a proliferation of people using personalized, souvenir or replica plates from other countries. These are often used in lieu of the rear license plates. These are claimed to be harmless since traffic enforcers usually check only the front plates for registration and compliance to number coding. However, there are implications for when the driver and the vehicle are involved in incidents such as traffic violations or crashes (e.g., hit and run incidents). While witnesses would probably be able to describe the car, the license plate cannot be recorded. Therefore, it would be quite difficult to trace the vehicle’s ownership information that could be retrieved from the LTO’s computer records to identify the violator or suspect in an incident.

IMG_1794The legal plate is deliberately obscured on this one as it is hidden in the rear bumper.

IMG_1793The plate suggests one is driving in Europe rather than along C-5 somewhere in Pasig City

374528_10151110683161805_2001253027_nThis one thinks he’s driving in Japan.

Perhaps the LTO and traffic enforcers who are deputized by the agency should also clamp down on these cases of violating RA 4136. The idea is to have a campaign similar to what was implemented to rid our roads of the annoying “wangwang” back in 2010. Such an initiative should help promote discipline on our roads in the sense that motorists would be more aware of traffic rules and regulations and that they cannot continue trying to circumvent basic laws.


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