Press Release
February 10, 2021

ANC Headstart

Karen Davila: Senator Grace, good morning to you, ma'am.

Sen. Grace Poe: Good morning, Karen, and to your viewers.

Davila: Alright, Senator, you led the hybrid hearing yesterday and you are calling for a suspension of this very controversial implementation of the MVIS. First of all, what can be done to actually order the LTO to suspend it?

Poe: First of all, Karen, it is just not me alone calling for the suspension of the PMVIC. It is also a collective decision of the senators who attended our hearing, all of us, unanimously. What can we do? We can't really impose our will on the executive, although with our oversight function, we can submit a committee report with a recommendation to suspend this. Now based on our hearing yesterday, it's been discussed, and Senator Drilon and Recto pointed this out, that really there's no legal basis for the DOTr to delegate a power that's been delegated to them. Meaning, they have the power to do the testing, but for them to delegate it to a private company or individual, there is a legal concern regarding that. So that can definitely be challenged.

Davila: Okay, so that is one concern. Let's talk about details of the hearing first. You said yesterday "the timing could not have been worse," so are you against the MVIS as a whole or is it only the timing, Senator?

Poe: Okay, let me clarify. The motor vehicle inspection system is actually a good program because it checks the roadworthiness of cars and the safety of the motorists. On the other hand, the delegation to a private motor vehicle inspection center is what is highly debatable. Number one, they didn't go through a proper bidding process which is normally required of a public-private partnership. Number two, there were questionable public hearings. DOTr, LTO claim that they conducted... but many of the stakeholders, leaders of different advocacy groups, who were supposed to have been consulted, were not present during those hearings. And number three, of course, the timing and the prohibitive increase in fees. In the past, it was about P400 to P500 for every private vehicle. Now, it will increase to about P1,500. Initially, they even wanted P1,800. Now why is this a concern? Why did they start with private motor vehicles? There are about four million of those, whereas public vehicles are about 400,000. They could have begun with that, especially when there's more incidence of mechanical failure when it comes to heavy trucks or buses. Those are really more of the concern when it comes to the riding public. Senator Recto pointed out that with the P1,500 in fees for the initial testing, those 23 centers will stand to make about P6 billion a year without public bidding. Now, 23 centers, their goal was to have about 458, so they have less than 0.4 percent in operation. That means there will be about 476 cars per testing center and with that about 200 hours of testing. There are only 24 hours in a day. If it's 30 minutes per car, how can they possibly accommodate that? What is the implication of that? Number one, when it comes to social distancing, if there's a long line of cars and motorists having their cars tested, how can you maintain social distancing? And number two, the equality in the law. There are only 23 testing centers, so in some parts of the Philippines, they will still be conducting the old testing which is the emissions test. And here in Metro Manila, since we have our testing centers, supposedly we'll have to be paying more. So there's really a lot of discrepancy at this point.

Davila: Okay, I'm curious, Senator, maganda ang punto mo kanina. Are you seeing this, number one, is this a revenue measure? I was thinking in the beginning this was a revenue-generating measure for the government but you pointed out, would the P6 billion to P8 billion be earned by the private testing centers, not by the DOTr?

Poe: See, that's where it's highly suspicious. For the P6 billion, and that's just minimum, that's just considering that you don't fail your emission test. Because if you fail your emission test, you will go back and be fined another P900. So actually Senator Recto computed about P8 billion in revenue that will go to the private sector. How much will the government get? The computation, these private centers will only pay the government P100,000 for the license to operate their center. So if there are about 458 centers, considering if they already rolled it out, government will stand to earn about P45.8 million, that's less than one percent. So, malayo.

Davila: It doesn't even make sense.

Poe: It does not make sense because even when we had this Aerocity for San Miguel in the airport, we had to ensure that the government was going to get its money back. With the NLEX-SLEX connector road, public bidding was conducted; the Mactan Airport, all of these public-private partnerships have gone through a grueling process of screening. Whereas this one, all of a sudden they allow the 23, because right now it's only 23 centers that operate, with not one regulation in place when they rolled it out before Dec. 29. So the question begs to be asked, who are these preferred individuals who were able to win those licenses to operate those private centers? So we're asking them to submit not just the names of the companies, but the incorporators of those companies as well.

Davila: Because the 23, could it be possible that they would have relatives, for example, who are, for example, relatives of members of, I don't know, members from the government, the DOTr, the LTO, that would be a conflict of interest, Senator? Would that be allowed?

Poe: You know, initially, for any DOTr contract, it says that any member of the DOTr, their families to a certain degree, is not allowed to participate. Suspiciously, in this private motor vehicle inspection center agreement, they took that provision out and all they did was put that those in the accrediting committee may not participate. Meaning, you can still be a relative of an officer of the DOTr or the LTO, or you yourself in the DOTr, LTO, as long as you're not in the selection of accrediting committee, you may actually own a private motor vehicle inspection center. Again, let me reiterate, sa ating mga kababayan, P8 bilyon, P6 hanggang P8 bilyon ang mapupunta sa pribadong sektor. At hindi lamang 'yun, gagastos kayo ng P1,500 na dati ay P500 lamang. Ang kaibahan nito, kung P36 ang bawat kilo ng bigas, 'yung idadagdag ninyo dito sa pambayad dito ay halos 46 na kilong bigas na. Lalung-lalo na sa panahon ngayon, sa pandemyang ito, ngayon pa nila tataasan ng ganyang kalaking singil na hindi naman mapupunta sa ating mga kababayan ang pera. Pupunta lang 'yan sa pribadong sektor na anong benepisyo ang mapupunta sa atin. Ang daming naging aberya. Maraming nagpapa-test na paulit-ulit na bumabalik dahil bumabagsak sila. Samantalang sa casa na may maayos na pamamalakad...

Davila: At may insurance ka pa sa casa. Usually may insurance ang may-ari ng sasakyan.

Poe: Ito, oo babayaran mo. Tapos sinasabi nila dapat daw walang human intervention dito sa test na ito dahil ipinagmamalaki nila na computerized na lahat ito. 'E hindi ganun ang nangyayari. 'Yung mga nagre-report na nagpapa-test, tao pa rin ang nagte-test. Tapos 'pag naghahanap sila ng engineer na mag-eeksplika bakit sila bumagsak, sa ibang mga centers, wala noon. Kaya hindi pa sila handa para sa roll out na ito. 23 centers pa lang ang available. Ano, ipagsisiksikan nila ang halos araw-araw 400,000 na sasakyan para mag-test.

Davila: You make strong points with number one, paano pinili 'yung 23 centers na 'to kung walang bidding? Who owns these 23 centers? So this will be the subject, Senator, of the next hearing? That's important.

Poe: Well, actually I will be submitting already a committee report by next week. We asked them to submit the names of the owners, we will incorporate that in the committee report. Regardless of who the owners will be, the most important action that we will recommend is for the immediate suspension of the private motor vehicle testing...First of all, the government's not ready, it's under very suspicious terms that they approved these centers, and the people will be paying more out of pocket.

Davila: Now let's take the side of the Vehicle Inspection Center Operation Association of the Philippines, this is the group, ito 'yung VICOAP. During the hearing, they told you, Senator, this is a bargain to protect our families. 'Yun po 'yung sinabi nila sa hearing. Sabi nila you're only paying P4 a day for light vehicles, P1.80 a day for motorcycles, kung baga murang-mura lang daw ito para protektahan ang pamilya. And under this there's less corruption, they argue, no LTO fixers. And they claim it's really time to upgrade the current testing methods.

Poe: I agree with the goal that they have. We really need to upgrade our testing equipment and testing centers. And there's no price that can be enough to guarantee the safety of our loved ones and ourselves. On the other hand, we've seen that what they're claiming is actually not necessarily the only option that we have. First of all, the government, since 2001 with the Motor Vehicles Users Fund, had already collected more than P200 billion. And with that, I think the charge that could be used for testing which the government was able to save is about P30 billion. Where did that go? First, they put it in the PITC where usually the government agencies park their money if they can't use it so that they don't lose it. And then afterwards, it was reverted back to the National Treasury. So the question is, why did the DOTr not utilize that money that they had so that they can come up with their own testing centers? Now if you say, well the private sector might be better off doing it. It's true. In some cases, it might be good. But from the beginning, there's no public bidding, there's no consultation, how do we know that the individuals who were chosen are actually capable, competent and actually above board. So wala na sigurong korapsyon sa testing, sa umpisa pa lang kasi meron na. Kung hindi nila mapapatunayan, bakit hindi maayos ang pag-select nila o pagpili ng mga korporasyon at indibidwal na magpapatakbo nito?

Davila: What is the accountability of Transportation Secretary Art Tugade in all these? Considering you just pointed out the DOTr could have actually made the testing centers so that the income would go to the government in full and then go back to the National Treasury?

Poe: Well first of all, the DOTr has to account for what they did with the money that was collected from the motorists, that was supposed to be about P30 billion. Now, Secretary Tugade did not deem it necessary to show up in our hearing yesterday. But with our recommendation that we suspend the operations of these centers, we are expecting to hear what his stand is regarding this, because it is within his authority to suspend this. So, I would like to hear what his rationale is if he does not suspend it because the senators are unanimous, number one, with the question on legality; number two, in the equal implementation of the law; number three, with the questionable granting of licenses for these centers to operate with no public bidding; and number four, with the prohibitive costs to the public.

Davila: But, Senator Grace, if you will be submitting, if you're going to be completing your committee report already without Secretary Tugade first attending the hearing, and all of you asking questions, don't you think the possibility of him actually not implementing it will be much smaller than if he actually faced all the senators?

Poe: Number one, I really think that it would have been better for him to show up. On the other hand, there's really command responsibility. And with or without his testimony, it is quite clear, all of those violations were committed in granting those licenses to those private individuals for the centers. Now, if he does not implement it, there's no reason for us not to have to reopen a hearing and to summon him to come. Remember, we can always have another hearing and this time for them to detail where the P30 billion from the motors users charge went when it was supposed to have been allocated for pollution control and these testings as mandated in the Clean Air Act of 1999. So these things we can ask him to come in. But in the meantime, so that at least our countrymen need not suffer further from the inconvenience and the costs, if it will help, we should already release at least the stand of the Senate or the senators who attended the hearing that we suspend the implementation of this order by the Department of Transportation.

Davila: Okay. Now, I wanted to ask you also because there's a confusing part in this memorandum, if it was settled in yesterday's hearing. Is it also mandatory, under Republic Act 10930 cited by this LTO memorandum, the submission of a driving school certificate, does it call for enrolling in private driving academies? Is that part of it? Is that mandated?

Poe: No, that was not discussed extensively in our hearing. But at the top of my head, I'm sure this would have to go through another scrutiny, I wish they had done their vetting because which driving schools will be accredited, to what extent? What costs will it be, will it have to be somehow subsidized by the government? Who can really afford this? Although for professional driver's licenses, there are certain requirements that are really mandatory. They have to be enrolled in classes to ensure that they can handle these public vehicles. But then again with the intention of rolling out these testing centers for the safety of the public. Again, our question is, why didn't you begin with vehicles that are usually the ones that have mechanical failure and breakdowns? Or that are taken by the majority which are public transportation, heavy trucks, buses, etc. Why did they begin with private vehicles? In fact, they said they had no capability, at this point, of testing heavy vehicles. And sometimes it makes us wonder that they started with private vehicles because that's four million cars and the fees are higher, so they will make more money...

Davila: Because, just for the viewers, the fees, is it P1,000 for a car?

Poe: It's P1,500. I used to be P400 to P500.

Davila: For emission testing.

Poe: At kapag bumagsak kayo, babalik pa kayo uli at P900 pa rin ang sisingilin sa inyo. Sa ibang bansa, hindi na kailangan 'yan. Kapag bumagsak ka, ayusin mo kung ano ang kailangang ayusin, at pagbalik mo, hindi ka na sisingilin pa ulit. Alam mo ginamit pa ng LTO na sa ibang bansa daw, at saka ng DOTr, sinabi nila na sa ibang bansa mas mataas ang bayad kapag nagpapa-test ka ng sasakyan. Natural, 'e mas mayaman ang mga bansa na sinabi nila—Japan, Korea, China. Dito naman sa atin, sabi nga ni Senator Recto parity of income 'di ba, parang ang layo ng kanilang kapasidad sa atin. At saka 'yung kaibahan may naipon nang pera ang gobyerno na dapat nilang inilaan diyan. Saan nila dinala ang pera na 'yun?

Davila: Okay, another question, is it true that these private motor vehicle testing centers are asking vehicle owners to sign waivers?

Poe: One attested to that—that if you have your car tested, you're supposed to sign that you will accept whatever the results are and you cannot lodge a complaint. That alone is quite telling, isn't it, that they're not really confident about the results of their tests. That's why we said in each of these centers there should be an engineer who would be knowledgeable about these tests. There should be proper customer service; there should be a desk that motorists can lodge complaints to, specifically assigned for these testing centers. I think they rolled it out, considering that this has been in the works for many years. It seems that within the last months, hoping maybe that nobody notices it, they rolled it out so quickly even without the regulations, approving already certain companies and individuals to participate without public bidding. So as the VACC said, Mr. Evangelista said, 'kung walang konsultasyon, maaaring may korapsyon.' So kung wala silang tinatago 'e 'di ilabas nila lahat 'yan at sagutin nila. Ang problema doon sa hearing namin, namimilipit ang abogado ng DOTr. Supposedly, si Mr. Yebra, bar topnotcher, mukhang mabait naman, pero nung tinatanong siya, hindi rin niya masagot ng tama ang mga tanong, ng maayos. Dahil nga mahirap, sabi ko nga, paano mo gagawing puti ang kabayong itim. Kapag may tinatago ka, mas mahirap depensahan 'yun.

Davila: Okay. The bigger picture is this is not the first controversial order, so to speak, that DOTr and the LTO is mandating. This is coming from the car seat law, right. So, before we go to the car seat law, considering the economy has contracted by 9.5 percent, we have a vaccine rollout issue next week, what is happening, Senator, why are they focusing on things like these?

Poe: You know what would be even more noble and nice is if the DOTr concentrated on, 'let's hire private vehicles to deliver the vaccines, refrigerated trucks, etc.' But no, the focus has been on implementing a law that should have been subject to public information for the past year. I think they're a year delayed already for the seatbelt law, and instead of being true to the intention of the law, they added a few provisions that are highly contentious which is having fitting centers for the car seats. Imagine, aside from buying a car seat, you have to go to a fitting center for them to check if you installed the car seat property and if you bought the right car seat. In any country that I've been to, I don't think this is required. And another thing is the question of when you go to this fitting centers, will you have to pay another fee to get approved? So that's another layer of bureaucracy and another opportunity for corruption. Now, another question that we ask is, is it possible that instead of having a car seat or booster for certain children, I know that you can probably buy a harness that you can just attach to the seatbelt, which is less costly. So that those that can't afford to get a car seat would be able to have this. The intention of the law is good because, you know, kids are very fragile and we really need to be very conscious about their safety inside the cars. But the rollout, at this time, and also it seems like the lack of regard for the cost of it to the public is what's quite sad and bothersome.

Davila: So, that's exactly it, you said it, Senator. The intention of the law is good and we all know that you know that the World Health Organization came out to the report that car seats save lives, right, we all know that. But the question is, it's the ridiculousness of the details that actually shocked people. So I wanted to ask you, are we all missing something here with the LTO, like mandating that 12 years old, the height of 4'11", you know, things like that shocked us. You said it, this fitting center, it escapes the mind. Is there another intention here? Do they want to make money, what is it?

Poe: I think it's up to the public really. We're going to have our committee report. I don't want to speculate based on my emotions, but I think it's pretty clear. Most of us are not dumb. I think that with what's happening now, especially supposedly they said the IATF was the one who mandated that members of the same household in a car should wear a mask. Saan ka ba naman nakakita 'nun? Talaga bang pinag-aralan 'yan ng IATF? At kung hindi alam ng IATF, it is the responsibility of the DOTr, the LTO to tell them, "I don't think this is necessary." First of all, you're in your car with your family members, when you go home, you have to keep those masks on? I can understand carpooling when you're with individuals of different households and also in public utility vehicles, but not in your own private cars. So again, this is an avenue for corruption because you can be apprehended and even if you're with your family, they can fine you. So, what are they focusing on when we're supposed to be on the same page helping each other to alleviate the hardships of our countrymen especially at this time. So, I don't know if they're out of touch, if they're incompetent or they simply don't care.

Davila: I just wanted to clarify this, is it true that one of the issues I mean, of course, former Sen. JV Ejercito was outraged, one issue is they're requiring safety belts even in taxis, jeepneys, TNVS etc. Well, this is another issue.

Poe: One of the provisions of the law is that within one year, the DOTr and the LTO is supposed to report to Congress the findings that they have with regard to having safety requirements in public utility vehicles. They have not done so. They're supposed to have conducted a study. Because if they say it is not feasible at this time, Congress can make the necessary adjustments to the law. You know even in other countries, children don't really have all of those safety equipment in public utility vehicles. It's just not rolled out extensively all over the world. So we also have to be very practical. What is the most acceptable way that is effective but doable in order to protect our children in these public utility vehicles? They're supposed to submit that, they haven't done it. We're not the experts in that. They're supposed to hire experts in the field. Now, if they still don't do it within a couple of months, the Senate and House will probably have to hire our own consultants to suggest to us what needs to be done. And when it comes to our budget hearings, definitely, it will take a toll on whatever we will be approving, in terms of budget that we will allot to the DOTr because they seem to not be able to roll out what their responsibilities and obligations are to the public.

Davila: To close this, before I ask you about Bayanihan 3, I think there's been a lot of surprises from the LTO. I think that's the holistic message here, with the newest one being the MVIS. What is, essentially, your message being the chairperson to the LTO and the DOTr?

Poe: Sa mga namumuno ng DOTr at LTO, isang apela naman sa inyo. Maganda ang intensyon ng pagkakaroon ng inspeksyon para sa ating mga sasakyan. Maraming namamatay dahil sa sakuna pero kung talagang maayos ang intensyon niyo, sana inuna niyo ang mga pampublikong sasakyan. At saka sana gawin ninyong bukas ang inyong mga pagdinig at ang inyong pagbibigay ng prangkisa dito sa mga testing centers na ito. Ngayon na naghihirap ang ating mga kababayan, ngayon sana huwag naman ninyong taasan ang singil. Lahat tayo ay may kanya-kanyang hamon.

Davila: Okay. Bayanihan 3, this will be the next, I think, bill that you will be tackling in the Senate. In the Lower House, you already have the Speaker and Cong. Stella Quimbo already ironing it out. What are you seeing in Bayanihan 3, do you believe we need it, Senator Grace?

Poe: I agree with any initiative that will help our people reeling from this pandemic, anything at all that the government can give. But let us consider the following things: Bayanihan 2 was extended, therefore we still need to get a proper accounting of what was spent in Bayanihan 2—if there are any savings or deficit. Number two, where are we exactly going to source the funding for this? Right now, our debt is more than P10 trillion and in 2022, there's an additional program debt of about P3 trillion more, so that will be P13 trillion total. I would like to know where we will be able to source the funding for that because a lot of, even in Bayanihan 2, is from unprogrammed funds. How are you going to source it? Where are we going to spend it, before we make empty promises.

Davila: Before we make empty promises. My last question, are you going to have yourself vaccinated?

Poe: Absolutely.

Davila: Ah you are. Are you particular with what kind of vaccine?

Poe: Well, I still have to read up really on the different vaccines that are available. I've heard that, I don't want to name any more vaccine because the studies change from day to day. But definitely I'd like to say that I hope that we will be able to assure the public that this is our best defense for now against the virus. And I'd like to protect myself as well as my loved ones and the people I work with. I think it's a responsible step for me to get vaccinated and I encourage those of us who can to have it done.

Davila: Another question, what about your mom? Si Ma'am Susan Roces po, given her age, I'm just curious. You know seniors, it's much more controversial for them if they will have themselves vaccinated. Like my parents, it's always a question. Is she going to have herself inoculated?

Poe: Well, I think she's watching now, maybe you should call her... but she is very interested. I am grateful, she'll be 80 years old and very healthy...

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