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Aug 27

The peril of the plates

Today’s Inquirer editorial proposes the abolition of special license plates for officials. This is an issue that appears and clutters the opinion pages and then wanes with predictable regularity. Officialdom, even when not corrupt or abusive, thrives on the symbols of privilege. Special license plates are the equivalent of the gold braid and other insignia that obsesses the military, for example (reading the story of virtually any revolutionary army and you’ll find, as happened to Washington and Aguinaldo, that even in societies aiming to establish a republican regime, titles and symbols of rank obsessed those holding and aspiring to them).

The plates that members of the House and the Senate use are often abused not by the members themselves, but their relatives. College campus parking lots often boast vehicles bearing Congressional plates used by the children or nieces and nephews of Representatives, for example. Neither the schools nor the student bodies do anything about it.

I have always opposed the abolition of official plates not only because I believe that protocol is not the real issue at hand and therefore, that those who oppose protocol only do so from ignorance and the wrong sort of egalitarian instincts but because they do serve a practical purpose.

For example, the editorial completely ignored the flipside to the reality it pointed out: the reality being that it may just be that policemen who spot vehicles bearing official plates will be intimidated into not enforcing traffic rules when it comes to that vehicle; the flipside is that what is probably more intimidating is neither the vehicle nor the plate but rather, the strong probability whoever’s riding in the vehicle is accompanied by bodyguards and a motorcyle escort composed of policemen more senior and agressive than any regular traffic enforcer.

The editorial also ignores the executive department. Aside from the President of the Philippines (No. 1) and the Vice-President of the Philippines (No. 2) in the past, cabinet members had their own official plates. But if you’ve noticed, even cabinet members entitled to cabinet plates have dispensed with using them. Does this mean that they rush around without the benefit of motorcycle escorts or bodyguards? Of course not.

What they do is rush around with escort vehicles and a retinue of motorcycle escorts with sirens, but without official plates, and, I’ve noticed quite often in recent years, usually without any license plates attached to their vehicle at all.

The end result of this is that no one can stop the little convoy trying to bully its way through traffic, but no one can figure out who the official is, although it’s obvious (because some of the escort vehicles sport license plates with red numbers, indicating they are government vehicles) that the person being escorted is an official. Proximity of the little convoys to and from the presidential palace indicates they’re off to or coming from the Palace.

Presidents periodically issue Executive Orders, Administrative Orders, Memorandum Circulars, etc., regulating the use of motorcycle escorts (if memory serves me right, the most recent one limits official escorts and sirens to the President, Vice-President, Senate President. Speaker of the House and Chief Justice, Nos. 1 to 5, respectively), an executive issuance the chief executive’s own subordinates take the lead in ignoring.

Members of Congress in a sense, are too stupid to realize they are living proof of why official plates make sense. As elected officials, they have to respond to the public and when the public is critical of their behavior, they have to modify it accordingly: and the public knows what it does precisely because the official plates identify the members of the legislature.

In contrast, officials in the executive department have it both ways: they violate the law, and do so with impunity, because they continue to enjoy anonymity.

It seems the Speaker of the House is too stupid to tell the LTO, which wants each official plate to identify the district the legislator belongs to, that it ought to look into the number of vehicles used by cabinet members and other presidential subordinates that don’t use license plates at all, and all of which violates executive issuances, and how diplomatic vehicles (the 1000 plates used by ambassadors which are supposed to identify the country of the ambassador) tape over their country designations.

But he is not being too politically-obtuse in not holding a caucus asking his colleagues to limit the plates they use (ideally, each legislator should only get one pair of plates for one vehicle, not multiple plates for multiple vehicles as happens these days) and agree to identifying their districts (if the objection is security then the legislator ought to not use official plates, and not use escorts, and take their chances going incognito in private cars). They’d never agree, and he knows it.

Keep the official plates. We’re entitled to know where our representatives are, and whether they drive around with a minimum of fuss or with an elaborate escort. As with so many things, the debate is over the wrong things -not official plates, but the abuse of them and that includes new innovations as demonstrated by the executive department.

74 comments

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  1. nash

    “Barack Hussein Obama is a Muslim who has lied about his religious background, including his claim to being a devout Christian.”

    Puleez, it’s more likely that Obama is a closet Atheist.

    He is just pretending to be Christian (so is McCain) because USAmericans are majority religious nutters and you need the votes of these bible belters.

  2. KG

    Since the title of the blog deals with license plates.
    Why won’t the LTO deal with something they can handle first.
    Why start from the top of the food chain, they should start with those bullies with red plates first. Some of them have not been registered for years, then next those ambulances should not be tinted to allow us to know if those inside are really patients.
    The LTO chief’s intentions maybe noble,but very quixotic.

    Another is they must coordinate with LTFRB, with those colorum vehicles in makati; o sabihin na nila ng direcho na legal na ang colorum dahil marami naman ang nakikinabang at di nahihirapan pumasok at umuwi sa skwela o sa trabaho nila.. kailangan pa ba me isang abogado na lumapit sa supreme court at humingi ng opinion tungkol sa colorum vans na ito.(i know its not only in makati, it is all over the metro )

  3. KG

    “there are more pressing issues we have to deal than this 8 brouhaha.

    Issues like the legitimacy of this government, rampant corruption, cover ups, governance, poverty, inequlaity, forced disappearances, etc, etc.”

    Our host has blogged about these a number of times, gusto mo ba ng paulit ulit na pagkain sa la mesa.

    editorial din naman ito ng PDI ah.

    kahit yung pdi opinion writer na si Conrad de quiros di naman siguro araw araw na ginawa ng diyos na ito ang laman ng column nya.

  4. KG

    “why is it common among department heads- the lack of implementation skills?

    what is the solution? maybe we should check the resume of the people in charge of implementation? baka the qualification do not fit the job description?”

    a simpleton’s approach to solve everything;,forgetting about the palakasan at utang ng loob patronage system called politics.

    pSi ,were you refereing to Ms. Leytenian earlier,about the implementation thing.?

    I will heed your advice to another commenter,not to take views seriously.
    nagkukwentuhan lang naman tayo dito eh.

  5. glu gun

    “there are more pressing issues we have to deal than this 8 brouhaha.

    Issues like the legitimacy of this government, rampant corruption, cover ups, governance, poverty, inequlaity, forced disappearances, etc, etc.”

    Our host has blogged about these a number of times, gusto mo ba ng paulit ulit na pagkain sa la mesa. – KG

    Ah, para lang palang piknik dapat trato natin sa mga discussion ng issues.

    Ako, I dont think so. If we have to tackle the issues over and over again for them to be resolved, so be it.

  6. istambay_sakalye

    @benign0
    “Filipino politicians merely reflect the people who elected them.
    It’s simple, really. ”

    that maybe very true, if they actually got elected/voted to their position, and not by doing a “hello garci”.

  7. UP n student

    gma got elevated as President when marichu lambino and many others stormed the malacanang gates. GMA was elected as Vice-President. Erap was elected as President, and McCoy, too, as well as Ramos and Cory and Elpidio Quirino.

  8. Lester Cavestany

    Because they can
    Because no one will dare stand up to them
    Because those in the lower rungs think they are powerless
    And those who have special plates and escorts know they are powerful

    Kaya nga natin sila tinatawag na “malakas” e.

    But I think there’s still hope. Lalo na kung ang mga kantang naririnig ng mga tao sa radyo ay tulad ng mga kantang “Tatsulok”. This song really struck a chord in me when I first heard it.

    Someone once said, There can be no peace if there is social injustice.”

  9. istambay_sakalye

    @UP n student :
    “gma got elevated as President when marichu lambino and many others stormed the malacanang gates. GMA was elected as Vice-President”

    did not get elected as president though. “hello garci”

  10. UP n student

    to __sakalye: the one that marichu lambino and many others put into Malacanang when they stormed the Malacanang gates and the GMA who was in Washington DC when Typhoon Frank and Princess of the Stars met — same person.

  11. UP n student

    By the way, the youth of Pinas should be aware about the rewards of teaching as a profession.

    http://globalnation.inquirer.net/news/breakingnews/view/20080828-157376/Filipino-teachers-continue-to-fly-to-US-for-higher-pay

  12. vic

    “The MPs need protection and riding in an official car means they have immunity.”

    That immunity has long been stripped off MPs of Canada outside the House of Commons..inside anything goes, outside, even the PM losses that so-called immunity…again lets go back to that simple word..Equality…

  13. nash

    @UP n

    Maojority of my high school teachers have moved the usa to teach. That’s good for them and good for the new teachers who can be employed.

    They are better ambassadors of the philippines than maid-beater Amb. Lauro Baja and his ilk will ever be.

    Ang tanong, will they be teaching them Kanos “A as in avocadoe” instead of “A as in apol”?

  14. supremo

    From citymayors.com
    ’12 August 2004: South Korea is following Brazil’s example by planning to build itself a new capital city. The government announced on 11 August 2004, that it had chosen a site of some 7,130 hectares in the Yeongi-Gongju region, 150 kilometres south-east of Seoul. A government spokesman told City Mayors that construction would start in 2007 and that by 2012 the first government departments would be operating in the new city. The final replacement of Seoul as the South Korea’s seat of parliament and government is not expected before 2020.’

    from wikipedia
    ‘ Putrajaya, a planned city located just south of Kuala Lumpur, is the new federal administrative centre of Malaysia. Several Government offices have re-located there to gain relief from the overcrowding and congestion of Kuala Lumpur, which is Malaysia’s largest city. However, Kuala Lumpur still serves as Malaysia’s national and legislative capital for now.’

    If the Philippines wil have a new capital, where is the best place to put it?

  15. istambay_sakalye

    @UP n student :

    “to __sakalye: the one that marichu lambino and many others put into Malacanang when they stormed the Malacanang gates and the GMA who was in Washington DC when Typhoon Frank and Princess of the Stars met — same person.”

    still did not get elected/voted as president.

  16. UP n student

    to _sakalye: bothersome piece of reality, isn’t it? —- that GMA remains the current Malacanang resident despite your beliefs re “Garci”.

    wait long enough and mikel may do a blogpost entry to remind about the “silent majority”.

  17. istambay_sakalye

    @UP n student :

    “to _sakalye: bothersome piece of reality, isn’t it? —- that GMA remains the current Malacanang resident despite your beliefs re “Garci”. ”

    hahaha…at least my belief is support by the so called “hello garci” tapes which malacanang moved heaven and hell to suppress. joke’s on us all Filipino and the whole world is also laughing. hahaha. 😉

  18. grd

    i see, most fil-ams are republicans.

  19. anthony scalia

    istambay_sakalye,

    “hahaha…at least my belief is support by the so called “hello garci” tapes which malacanang moved heaven and hell to suppress. joke’s on us all Filipino and the whole world is also laughing. hahaha. ;)”

    oh yes, the whole world is laughing, at those who still cling to ‘Hello Garci.’

    the whole world is also laughing at the bright boys of the ‘united opposition,’ because gloria’s continued stay in Malacañang is a testament to their (lack of, no wait, absence of) brains!

    the ‘united opposition’ is the personification of the saying “too many witches spoil the brew”!

  20. nash

    “oh yes, the whole world is laughing, at those who still cling to ‘Hello Garci.’”

    Ows talaga? And which countries are included in this scientific survey of yours?

    I don’t have PAMET-accredited survey results but methinks the whole word is laughing mainly because our elections are tainted by Hello Garci and that we are quick to accept it.

    Unless by “world” you mean “Zimbabwe” or “Pakistan”

  21. What Do We Care?

    Back to the plates. The whole country is now being taken over by influential people and their goons. Scrapping the plates is one way for the taxpayer to reclaim the streets from the powerful and the pretender.

  22. leytenian

    why are people do not understand that this “Plate Issue” has rules and regulations that needs to be implemented. The person in charge cannot deliver the executive order…

    EXECUTIVE ORDER NO. 400

    SEC. 4. The assignment or transfer of low-numbered/protocol plates to unauthorized person/s or motor vehicles by government officials entitled thereto is strictly prohibited. Violation of this prohibition shall be sufficient cause for the revocation of the herein granted privilege and for the confiscation of the issued protocol plates, and imposition of the corresponding penalty for the violation/s committed as provided by existing laws.

    SEC. 5. The Assistant Secretary, Land Transportation Office, is hereby authorized to promulgate the necessary REGULATORY measures to implement this order.

    It’s the LTO who is solely responsible.

  23. anthony scalia

    “Ows talaga? And which countries are included in this scientific survey of yours?”

    UK, US, Canada, Japan, Korea – the respondents are graduate students who had Filipino ties, so they’re trying to be updated on ‘Pinas

    “I don’t have PAMET-accredited survey results but methinks the whole word is laughing mainly because our elections are tainted by Hello Garci and that we are quick to accept it.”

    noted. hey guess what? pareho tayo! i also don’t have PAMET accredited survey results.

    why are you also quick to accept that the whole world is laughing since unlike me you don’t have scientific survey results to back that up?

    ah yes, i almost missed that out. ‘youthinks’ pala, okay. noted. anong countries kaya ang included in “youthinks”? all UN member states? wow, thats more than my survey population! credible!

    “Unless by “world” you mean “Zimbabwe” or “Pakistan””

    noted. sabi mo eh

    **** ‘Hari ng Sablay’ playing in the background ****

  24. Renato Pacifico

    Guys, you are all victim of extra-hyping by dumb, stupid, idiot Filipino pekeng-periodistas who reports gossips and initiate intrigues and irresponsible journalistic ethics which these arrogant self-proclaimed 4th estate as democracy. HA!

    I learned plenty and got educated by civilized foreign newspapers than from these so-called vanguards of democracy.

    Rookie cops in Amerika knew more about when to divulge information on invistigation than our foreign-schooled-Ivy-league Senate clowns. Compounding the invistigation fiasco are the stupid, idiotic irresponsible journalism who don’t know an iota of invistigative process.

    So you all may be shooting the wind. I hope the pekeng-periodistas correctly reported the events and facts of license plate and Chanel No. 5

    If pekeng-periodistas are dumb so much more the ordinary Filipinos.

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