Something good has been going on at the local LTO (Land Transportation Office) lately: one can actually get a replacement for a lost driver's license in just one hour!
I wouldn't have believed it if I hadn't experienced it first hand yesterday. Where before any LTO transaction was fraught with red tape, muddled instructions and a generally primitive operating system, these days the LTO has upgraded and digitized marvelously.
When I renewed my driver's license a couple of years ago, I had to carry in my wallet this little paper that said "all paid up but card license will arrive from Manila in a few months" or something to that effect. The few months turned out to be several months because my new license somehow traveled all the way to LTO Bayawan (probably because I have lots of relatives with the same family name there) before finally coming back to me in Dumaguete.
So last Monday, when I realized that my driver's license was missing, I was already dreading the rigmarole of getting a replacement. The last time I saw my license was at the Cebu Pacific check in counter at the NAIA Terminal 2 in Manila on my trip back to Dumaguete. By the time I realized that my license was not in my purse, we were about to board the aircraft and there was no more time to go back to all the places at the airport that I went to. The next day, I asked my cousin Ivy, who was flying to Manila, to please check with the Cebu Pacific Info Desk in case my license turned up somewhere, but alas it was to no avail.
Left with no choice and afraid to drive without a license, I immediately went to LTO Dumaguete to report the loss. As in most establishments in the Philippines, the security guards also double as Customer Service/Information Personnel. "I lost my license... what to do?" I asked the guard. He said get these: (1) Affidavit of Loss from the Public Attorney's Office (PAO) at the Hall of Justice, (2)photocopy of my Taxpayer Identification Number and (3) photocopy of my birth certificate.
What he didn't tell me was that details (ID number, expiration date, etc) about the lost driver's license were necessary for the Affidavit of Loss to be made. Good thing I had a photocopy of that driver's license but it was at home so I had to go home again to get that. All that data was actually in the LTO computer, retrievable in a couple of mouse clicks. But, the computers were off-line at that time (a not-so-unusual occurence in Dumaguete), so that was a no go.
Getting the Affidavit of Loss from the PAO was a breeze, done in 30 minutes, free of charge. Armed with the affidavit, photocopy of my TIN and my birth certificate, I went back to the helpful security guard who now pointed me to the correct windows to begin my transactions. Filled up the application form, posed in front of the camera that took my picture, affixed my (digital) signature to my picture, paid 479.63 pesos at Window 5, sat in a chair and waited (while they were checking their files for any untoward reports regarding my license) for about 35 minutes, then voila! My new driver's license was ready! I think that was incredibly fast!
That's why I want to thank and congratulate whoever thought up this simplified and efficient way of replacing lost licenses. The LTO is no longer a dreaded place to go to.