By Jullie Y. Daza
When Virginia Torres assured us in 2013 that “you will all have new car plates by next year,” we were confident in her self-assured confidence. She passed on a year or so later, may her soul rest in peace, but that was not the end of that. The promise died with her, not her fault.
It’s 2018, and finally the courts have overruled a petition filed by a former party-list congressman against the legality of the funds (from the national budget) used for the purchase of 3.9 million license plates, of which only 1.1 million were distributed, plus another 300,000 caught in the squeeze by the court’s restraining order. The good news is that after the population of cars and owners took a quantum leap in the last five years, those 300,000 plates will now be “prioritized” for distribution. The bad news is that the backlog has hit a staggering 15 million plates nationwide. (Remember, nearly 500,000 cars and trucks were sold last year.)
The question nobody is asking, at P400 for a pair of plates, prepaid, which agency enjoyed the interest earned in their bank account? Nobody bothers, because everybody is just so relieved that they will finally get new plates for their by-now aging cars.
We are a society of patient queuers. We line up for miles for a ride on the MRT, pay our taxes, beg for an appointment to apply for a passport, wait for a jeepney to come along, apply for charity at PCSO or an interview at the US embassy. We waited 180 days to get a driver’s license encased in cheap plastic. Now it’s the Build, Build, Build President telling contractors to finish their projects in 30 days “or your contract is canceled.” The nerve of those undercapitalized contractors who hire three men to dig with shovels as dainty as teaspoons and “equipment” as puny as Lego blocks, as if the goal is to construct a monumental, permanent traffic jam! Who cares if they’re in no hurry to finish the work? Who cares if they refuse to hire more men and pay them overtime and Sunday or holiday pay? Who cares if the neighborhood goes to pieces and traffic eats up P2.5 billion in fuel costs every day?
Mr. President, we dig you, but do the contractors? We’ll wait – yes, wait – for DPWH to show us which of them will be the first to dig their own graves.