THE backlog in driver’s license cards has ballooned by almost threefold in just a month, the Department of Transportation (DOTr) admitted on Thursday.
During the Senate Blue Ribbon Committee hearing on Thursday, Transportation Secretary Jaime Bautista told senators that the backlog on the issuance of driver’s IDs has reached 690,000.
Senator Francis Tolentino, who chairs the Blue Ribbon Committee, was surprised, noting that records show that “as of May 2, the backlog was just 234,000.”
“Now, in June, just after a month, it’s already at 700,000— that’s a 500,000-increase. How did this happen?” Tolentino said.
Bautista explained that this is because the LTO is no longer issuing physical license cards due to the shortage of licenses. It has, however, extended the validity of licenses due starting April 24 until October 31.
“Actually, we are not issuing driver’s license because of the extension of validity, but we still considered them backlogs,” he said.
Currently, the LTO only has a supply of 70,000 ID cards nationwide.
Bautista said the agency is “reserving” these remaining cards for overseas Filipino workers (OFWs) who need licenses abroad.
Bewildered by the sudden spike in backlog, Tolentino asked if the agency is “expecting another 500,000” in delayed issuances of license cards next month.
“We are finalizing the procurement. We have an ongoing procurement where there is already the lowest bidder. We are just doing a post-qualification of the lowest bid. If we will qualify the lowest bidder we should be able to get maybe 500,000 licenses in July,” Bautista assured.
Bautista noted that the LTO should have started the early procurement of license cards in August 2022, when the National Expenditure Program (NEP) was submitted to Congress.
“Unfortunately, the LTO failed to do that,” he said, referring to the previous management at the LTO.
By January 25, the DOTr had already mandated the centralization of procurement processes for contracts P50 million and above.
Six days later, Bautista directed the LTO to submit the terms of reference for the acquisition of license cards to the DOTr by February 15.
“It was only on Feb 28, 2023 that they submitted a one-page PPMP or project procurement management plan. They submitted the terms of reference March 21, 2023—that’s when the ball started rolling,” he said.
Teofilo Guadiz, who was then the LTO chief in August, said he jumpstarted the development of a TOR for the license cards acquisition, but was then replaced by Jay Art Tugade in November. Tugade recently resigned as LTO Chief.
“First we were cognizant that there is a need to purchase these licenses. We convened a technical working group. We have already nearly finished the process and we were 80 percent complete with our recommendation for the type of license to be procured; however, by Nov 15, I was replaced, so I turned over whatever we have done to the incoming Assistant Secretary [Tugade] for appropriate actions,” Guadiz said.
He noted that it was not a “recurring order…because every time we procure licenses we would revisit the terms of reference, look for cheaper suppliers.”
LTO IT system questioned
The issue of license cards surfaced during the Senate Blue Ribbon Committee hearing on the alleged “undue payments” to the joint venture of Dermalog, Holy Family Printing, Microgenesis, and Verzontal Builders—the contractor for the Land Transportation Management System (LTMS).
Dermalog representatives were absent at the hearing and so were other former LTO chiefs.
The Commission on Audit (COA) flagged the LTO for “undue payments” to the joint venture, noting that the agency paid the contractor despite not meeting milestones listed on the terms of reference (TOR).
State auditors likewise raised issues on maintenance payments for the information technology (IT) system in 2019 despite being delivered only in 2020.
For his part, Guadiz noted that the contract with the Dermalog Joint Venture was “amended 12 times.”
“There were amendments to the contract on 12 occasions so there were problems that gave undue advantage against the interest of the government — that is my personal opinion,” he said.
Guadiz, who only served as the LTO chief for three months prior to his appointment as the chairman of the Land Transportation Franchising and Regulatory Board (LTFRB), was with the LTO for 12 years.
Melissa San Miguel Salunga, the COA supervising auditor for DOTr, noted that the findings in the initial COA report have yet to be confirmed by the commission’s information technology audit office (ITAO).
The first of the two audits will be released by mid-2023 and the other one by yearend.
“We asked for assistance from the ITAO because it appears that the LTO management and the contractor could not agree on what the deliverables of Dermalog are. The position of the LTO, through the users, is that there are functionalities that are deemed incomplete. Dermalog on the other hand said they have completed everything based on terms of reference —that’s why we asked assistance from the ITAO to determine what is in the TOR and what has been delivered to determine if there should be audit action on this,” Salunga said.