LTO Mandaue is fixers' paradise
(This is not a Fair Play or a column entry for Sun.Star Cebu, but a chronicle of my unfortunate experience in LTO Mandaue, the most inept and fixer-infested office I've encountered)
ON JAN. 7, I applied for a renewal of registration of a car (registered under) my wife, and experienced first hand how inept and blatantly corrupt the Land Transportation Office in Mandaue City is.
It seems, everyone there is a fixer and that their system is intentionally designed so the walk-in clients would leave thinking of only one thing, it's better to get a fixer. In fact, I wish that everyone in that office would be punished by facing Cebu Pacific type of delays for all things, even the simplest thing as waiting for a red light to turn green.
There's no. Step 1, Step 2, Step 3, or even a help desk. There was an empty desk marked CSR in the waiting area where fixers sat.
Since it was our first time to renew the car registration, I thought, we shouldn't get any fixer since we would be doing this every year. Besides, I've learned my lesson after paying P2,500 for a non-prof driver's license that was less than P500.
We went there at around 10 a.m. and after evading an army of fixers, we got to one window and asked about the process and requirements. We were inside the LTO office and we got referred to an Employee who took us outside the office to give us the nitty gritty. Now, is that official government process?
After an initial inspection, the guy who told us not to get any fixers but turned out to be a fixer himself, asked his "gofer boy," to do the stenciling of the engine and chassis numbers.
Before even checking the car, parked about 200 meters away from the office, the gofer boy said, “Is this a Honda? Getting the stencil is very difficult, only the MVIS can do this."
I corrected him. No, it's a Hyundai.
He said, "Still, getting the stencil is difficult, go to MVIS.”
So, off we went back to the LTO Mandaue office to tell Mr. Goverment Employee, what his "assistant" said.
The schmuck actually looked sympathetic and said, "Daghan tao sa MVIS run, pero tabangan ta mo. Pangitaan tani solution." (MVIS is very crowded these days, but, I'll help you. I'll look for a solution.)
Suspecting that his solution would involve grease money and this was part of a Tom and Jerry act, we told him that we'd just get our papers and go to MVIS ourselves.
We did. And yes, there were a lot of people but guess what, we finished there in under an hour. There were a couple of fixers there too, but unlike in the Mandaue office, in the MVIS, you know where to start, what part of the process you are in and where to wait.
After getting our papers, we returned to LTO Mandaue and we were happy to see that there were only four people in the waiting area. Surely, we'd be finished in under 30 minutes with all the requirements complied?
The LTO in Mandaue is so used to dealing with fixers that they don't have a proper work-flow for walk-ins. After submitting our papers, it was passed again to the Government Employee's whose help we refused and we were told to wait for our name to be called.
And wait we did. Wait and wait.
When one guy who was with us at MVIS managed to get his application processed faster than I could finish a cigarette, we let it slide.
But after one fixer managed to get hold of reams of receipts after just approaching one of the windows, we began to ask around about our papers.
After an initial argument, we were referred to the cashier, a Jen Magdadaro, who asked us if we had paid.
We pointed out that we haven't because we don't know where our application went and what step to follow and where to even pay.
Then in what should be a classic line, the cashier, told us, “Don't pay me, pay the guy who got your papers! Besides, I already have too much to do, you can't expect me to handle payments.”
Say what? Don't pay the cashier but pay the guy who got our papers? Cashiers in government offices are no longer allowed to accept payments from clients, only from fixers? You have to raise your voice before your paper gets processed before that of the fixers?
And how could she say she was too busy, when every time a fixer walked in, which was every five minutes, she entertained them.
We waited some more.
After pointing out some obvious lapse—hey, how come no one is calling out applicants and no one is telling applicants what the next step is—and telling them that they were giving fixers a priority, a violation of the Civil Service Commission code which was plastered in their offices, they actually had one damn fixer get a bunch of papers and call out applicants.
After our name was called, predictably we were the only one to get our paper because as I suspected, all the names called before us were processed by fixers and the “calling out” was just for show. We went to the cashier, to pay—and a helpful fixer (sarcasm intended) who was standing in the cashier's window the whole time, was even the one who pointed out the amount to pay.
We paid, and the cashier told us to return on Friday for the releasing. She presented us a piece of paper, no bigger than a calling card, wrote a bunch of numbers and told us to present that when we would claim our registration.
Shocked, we went to one window to clarify if all we needed was to present that piece of paper to claim our papers. You pay a government agency, you get a receipt not a torn off paper with a bunch of numbers.
And as proof of the inefficiency of LTO Mandaue, the guy said just wait for your papers. When we told him we were told to return on Friday, he asked, “Why Friday?”
To end this, we decided to approach the guy whose favor we rejected, to complain why we needed to wait two days for our registration when we have already paid, and have complied with all requirements.
After seeing him get a P1,000 handshake from another client, we were ushered in to the LTO head in Mandaue, a Jun Gador, who was also shocked that we had to wait for Friday.
“If you paid today, you must get your registration today,” he said and proceeded to concoct a scenario that perhaps there was a paper jam in the printer, that's why we had to return on Friday.
After saying he just got assigned there, he said that he always tell his staff to prioritize walk-ins (as opposed to fixers who shouldn't be there?) and that after receiving payment, a receipt should be issued.
“But we paid, and you got all our papers, and all we have is piece of paper,” we said.
He actually said that that's anomalous. Not getting any receipt means the cashier could just use the money for whatever purpose.
They checked our application in their system and found out it was already for printing at the cashier, the same one who told us to return after two days.
We got our papers, and right there in the waiting area, were two or three guys who were ahead of us when we got in. Walk-ins who refused to take the fixers route.
Folks who would be us the next time we apply for a renewal. So, aside from this rant, and perhaps to warn you not to deal with LTO Mandaue, though the lines at N Bacalso are wrong, at least, the work-flow there is obvious in my previous experience, I'm going to file a complaint in the Civil Service Commission, LTO regional office, against LTO Mandaue and if you have a similar experience, drop me a line and I will attach your complaint to mine.
And are LTO cashiers subject to lifestyle checks?