When a traffic enforcer cannot confiscate your driver’s license

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AN LTO ENFORCER flags down a pickup without a license plate on Edsa in Cubao, Quezon City, on the first day of the implementation of the agency’s “no plate, no travel” policy. Violators face up to P10,000 in fines on top of the impounding of their vehicles. LEO M. SABANGAN II

“The Lord giveth, the Lord taketh away.”

In the same way, the LTO gives driver’s licenses, the LTO takes them away.

In other words, only the Land Transportation Office (LTO) issues driver’s licenses, therefore only the LTO is authorized to confiscate them.

Alberto Suansing, secretary general of the Philippine Global Road Safety Partnership (PGRSP) who once served as LTO chief and at another time headed the Land Transportation Franchising and Regulatory Board (LTFRB), emphasized this when a member of the Automobile Association Philippines (AAP) inquired whether a traffic enforcer could confiscate his driver’s license.

Must be LTO deputized

Suansing said that Metropolitan Manila Development Authority (MMDA) traffic officers, traffic enforcers or traffic aides and members of the Philippine National Police Highway Patrol Group (PNP-HPG) cannot take away a motorist’s license unless they are deputized LTO agents.

Aside from Edsa and Roxas Boulevard, the MMDA has jurisdiction over traffic on all national roads in Metro Manila, yet MMDA traffic enforcers cannot confiscate a motorist’s license.

This rule also applies to the traffic officers/enforcers/aides of provinces, cities and municipalities including Makati City, which is widely known as the Republic of Makati.

The exception is when a motorist is involved in a road crash resulting in injury or death, then he/she is obliged to surrender his/her driver’s license to the arresting officer even though the latter is not a deputized LTO agent.

Valid for 72 hours only

In traffic incidents not resulting in injury or death, an LTO-deputized traffic enforcer will issue a Temporary Operator’s Permit (TOP) to the traffic violator.

Suansing said that the TOP serves four functions: 1) It is a receipt that the driver’s license was confiscated; 2) It is a charge sheet; 3) It is a summons; and 4) It is a temporary driver’s license/conductor’s permit.

There is no deadline for redeeming a confiscated driver’s license, but the TOP issued by LTO-deputized traffic enforcers is valid for 72 hours only.

This means that a motorist whose license was confiscated can continue to drive only while his/her TOP is valid.

A P3,000 fine is imposed on a motorist not carrying a valid license/conductor’s permit, certificate of registration, or official receipt while driving a motor vehicle, Suansing warned.

Driving without a valid license

This includes driving with an expired, revoked, suspended, inappropriate driver’s license restriction code, inappropriate driver’s license classification, fake driver’s license, tourist driving a motor vehicle with a valid foreign driver’s license beyond the 90-day maximum allowable period, and a student driver driving without being accompanied by a duly licensed driver.

In addition, the unlicensed or improperly licensed driver shall be disqualified from being granted a driver’s license and driving a motor vehicle for one year from the payment of the fine.

A motorist who is apprehended has the right to know what traffic law he/she violated. It’s advisable to always keep a copy of Republic Act 4136 (Land Transportation and Traffic Code) in your car to make sure the traffic regulation being cited exists.

By the way, AAP gives free copies of R.A. 4136 to its members.

Where to redeem your license

There was a time when motorcycle-riding traffic enforcers in uniform strictly enforced the speed limit of 100 kilometers per hour for light vehicles on the South Luzon Expressway elevated section, aka the Skyway, from Buendia, Makati City to Calamba, Laguna.

Suansing says that these traffic enforcers are duly deputized LTO agents and are authorized to confiscate the license of a driver who disregards the speed limit or violates any other traffic regulation.

Traffic violators on the Buendia-Alabang Skyway, NAIAEx and CAVITEx are obliged to attend a half-day seminar at the LTO Central Office along East Avenue in Quezon City and pay a fine before redeeming their license.

However, traffic violators apprehended on the SLEx from Alabang to Calamba and the STAR Tollway will have to redeem their license at the LTO Region 4 office in Lipa, Batangas while traffic violators on the SCTEx and TPLEx have to go all the way to the LTO Region 3 office in San Fernando, Pampanga to redeem their license, according to Suansing.

All motorists who violate traffic regulations, whether these be on expressways, tollways or city streets, must attend the half-day seminar and pay a fine. The remedial education of errant drivers is part of the penalty.

Swerving is reckless driving

A few motorists are apprehended for alleged “swerving.” Suansing says that swerving is changing direction abruptly, and if done without reasonable caution and/or without using the appropriate turn signal, it is considered reckless driving.

R.A. 4136, Chap. 4, Art. V, Sec. 48 states: “Reckless driving – No person shall operate a motor vehicle on any highway recklessly or without reasonable caution considering the width, traffic, grades, crossing, curvatures, visibility, and other conditions of the highway and the conditions of the atmosphere and weather, or so as to endanger the property or the safety or rights of any person or so as to cause excessive or unreasonable damage to the highway.”

You don’t have to be a lawyer to understand all that legalese to mean that changing lanes suddenly without using your turn signal is swerving, or reckless driving.

Yet it happens all the time: A driver on the rightmost lane beside the sidewalk suddenly decides to turn left at the intersection, and abruptly swerves across two lanes to occupy the left turn lane.

In general, most traffic enforcers just look the other way.

Obstruction of traffic

Another frequent traffic violation is illegal parking. This is considered obstruction of traffic, Suansing says.

Waiting at the curb with your engine running and hazard lights switched on is illegal parking and therefore obstruction of traffic.

This is because the Land Transportation and Traffic Code states: “Obstruction of traffic: No person shall drive his vehicle in such a manner as to obstruct or impede the passage of any vehicle, nor, while discharging or taking on passengers or loading or unloading freight, obstruct the free passage of other vehicles on the highway.” (R.A. 4136, Chap. 4, Art. V, Sec. 54)

It seems that motorists who park wherever they wish, and jeepney and taxi drivers who load or unload passengers in the middle of the road have never heard of a violation called obstruction of traffic. Or choose to ignore it since chances are, no one will apprehend them anyway.

Occasionally, if the driver of an illegally parked vehicle is not present, a MMDA-accredited tow truck may come along and tow the vehicle to an impounding area.

If the driver is around, he will be issued a traffic violation ticket after which he must move his vehicle.



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