, January 29, 2005
(STAR) There won’t be as many cars with low-numbered plates in the streets after President Arroyo ordered a clampdown on the reported abuses and illegal use of "protocol" car plates issued exclusively to specific officials in government.

Transportation Secretary Leandro Mendoza, immediate superior of the Land Transportation Office (LTO), has been directed to fully enforce the new restrictions contained in Executive Order 400 to regulate the use of these special plates for vehicles of certain officials.

A copy of EO 400, dated Jan. 18, 2005, was obtained by The STAR.

"Throughout the years, certain officials have received exemptions for them to use low-numbered/protocol plates on their motor vehicles resulting in the proliferation of these car plates," the President stated in her EO.

The exemptions have led to the proliferation specifically of the plates "6," "7" and "8" supplied by "unknown sources," meant for Cabinet secretaries, senators and congressmen, respectively, the EO noted.

"There is a need to provide a uniform system of assignment and issuance of low-numbered/protocol license plates to high-ranking government officials," Mrs. Arroyo said.

As president of the republic, Mrs. Arroyo is solely entitled to use the No. 1 and/or PANGULO car plate.

Vice President Noli de Castro is assigned the No. 2 car plate and the following officials, by order of hierarchy, are given their respective plates: Senate President Franklin Drilon (3); Speaker Jose de Venecia (4); and Chief Justice Hilario Davide Jr. (5).

Associate justices of the Supreme Court have license plates number 9; presiding justices and other justices of the Court of Appeals (10); Chairman Benjamin Abalos of the Commission on Elections (11); Cabinet undersecretaries (12); Solicitor General Alfredo Benipayo (13); Armed Forces chief Gen. Efren Abu and National Police chief Director General Edgar Aglipay (14); and regional trial court judges (16).

All other officials with equivalent rank/position as listed above are also entitled to the use of low-numbered plates subject to the approval of the Department of Transportation and Communications Secretary, upon the recommendations of LTO chief Anneli Lontoc.

The protocol plates will now be issued in pairs for motor vehicles registered in the name of the listed officials to their respective spouses.

However, EO 400 stated, not more than two pairs of license plates for issuance to two motor vehicles shall be assigned to any of the officials, with the exception of the president, vice president, Senate president, House speaker and the chief justice.

The President allowed senators and congressmen to be assigned not more than four pairs of protocol plates.

The order stated that assignment or transfer of these special plates to unauthorized persons or vehicles is strictly prohibited and would cause revocation of the privilege to use the plate as well its confiscation.

The use of protocol license plates began in 1959 under President Carlos Garcia. It was discontinued for a while in 1978 by the Marcos regime but subsequently reinstated. – Marichu Villanueva

Reported by: Sol Jose Vanzi

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