LAPU-LAPU City Mayor Junard “Ahong” Chan wants the fixers of the Land Transportation Office (LTO) Lapu-Lapu City to serve as “facilitators” of the agency so that they will stop working as “fixers” in the vicinity of City Hall.

LTO Central Visayas (LTO 7) Director Victor Caindec, however, wants the fixers charged for their illegal activities.

Chan came up with the idea after his office received several complaints about the fixers reportedly taking advantage of the clients of LTO, whose office is situated in the City Hall compound.

Chan noted that authorities last week arrested two fixers for victimizing production workers at the Mactan Economic Zone by making fake driver’s licenses worth P6,500 each.

He said this destroyed the image of the city, as the fixers seemed to be working for the City Government.

Chan said he does not tolerate fixers and clarified that he did not want to “legitimize” them either.

“That is illegal. Of course, as father of the city, who would be happy hearing about many victims being asked as much as P21,000 for a license that turns out to be fake? Of course, I would be angry,” he said Friday, Jan. 27, 2023.

Chan said in the case of fixers who receive incentives for leading LTO clients to specific people or firms providing medical certificates and insurance related to LTO licensing in the area, City Hall plans to call the contacts of these fixers in these firms to ask which of the fixers are their employees, so that those who are not could be considered for employment by these firms.

Chan recommends that these fixers instead assist LTO customers who would like to renew their driver’s licenses or register their vehicles, among other transactions.

Drug addicts

But only those who do not use illegal drugs will be allowed to do so, as the mayor noted that many fixers are drug addicts.

Only 16 of the 36 individuals identified as “fixers” of the LTO Lapu-Lapu City tested negative for illegal drug use in a surprise drug test conducted at the Lapu-Lapu City Sports Complex on Friday morning, Jan. 27, 2023.

Garry Lao, City of Lapu-Lapu Office for Substance Abuse Prevention (Closap) executive director, said 18 of those who tested positive for drugs were males while two were females.

“We can’t also let them starve. I will recommend that the 16 who did not test positive and who have a good track record, be given livelihood but not anymore as fixer but as facilitator. They will guide the clients,” Chan told SunStar Cebu.

To entice the fixers to go to the City Sports Complex, they were informed only that they would have to undergo profiling there as part of the membership requirement for LTO facilitators.

Those who subjected themselves to the drug test were profiled by the Closap so they could be given identification cards (IDs) and “authorized to assist” customers.

Chan told the fixers gathered that he supports livelihoods but not illegal activities.

He emphasized that the facility the LTO is situated in is owned by the City Government.

“If the situation is that we receive many complaints there at the LTO and the LTO cannot stop these illegal activities taking place outside their office, then I will evict the LTO from the compound so Lapu-Lapu City will not be sullied by the bad things done by the people in our surroundings,” the mayor said.

Colonel Elmer Lim, director of the Lapu-Lapu City Police Office (LCPO), disclosed that the mayor initially wanted to arrest all the fixers at the City Hall compound but changed his mind and chose to help them instead.

Calling NBI

Meanwhile, LTO 7 Director Caindec said he has instructed the chief of operations of LTO Lapu-Lapu City to write a letter to the National Bureau of Investigation (NBI) Central Visayas to secure the names of the self-confessed fixers.

“I instructed Chief Operations to write a letter to NBI 7 to secure the names of the self-confessed LTO fixers so we can file appropriate charges, if any, against them. More importantly to get them to file affidavits and divulge names of their contacts inside the agency, if any,” said Caindec.

Chan welcomed the decision of the regional director to investigate the fixers.

Fake driver’s license

In the case of the two arrested fixers, Chan said they found out that the manufacturing of the fake driver’s licenses was done outside the city.

Chan said the drivers who got the licenses did not know these were fake. All they sought when they paid a higher price was the speedy release of their license, meaning release in about two days.

Lim said their follow-up investigation is ongoing.

Lim said their objective is to identify and locate the source or the manufacturer of fake driver’s licenses, adding that they also expect to find more individuals involved in the illegal activity.

LTO Lapu-Lapu City Operations Officer Ronald Lim, during his message, urged the fixers to correct their ways, as he expressed gratitude to the police and the mayor for their assistance.

Police director Lim said those who tested positive for illegal drugs will be included in their system and be subjected to further investigation.

Lao said those who tested positive may undergo Closap’s rehabilitation program if they want to.

Lao said they also need the cooperation of the would-be LTO facilitators in order to improve Lapu-Lapu City’s image.

Lao said they should at least wear a uniform and groom themselves.

What are fixers?

In an interview with SunStar Cebu Friday, Caindec reminded the public that LTO and other government agencies do not recognize fixers.

Fixers, according to Caindec, are people who appear on behalf of their clients for services in their offices such as the renewal of licenses and application of new licenses, which requires a physical appearance at any LTO office.

“Outside of these conditions, anyone who represents to transact with LTO on behalf of the applicant can be considered a fixer,” Caindec said.

But Caindec said aside from doing transactions with LTO on behalf of paying clients, some fixers involved themselves in criminal acts such as extorting money from their clients but giving them fake documents.

Addressing fixers

Due to complaints received about fixers in their LTO offices, Caindec said they have conducted several operations against fixers in their offices with coordination from the NBI and the Criminal Investigation and Detection Group.

However, Caindec admitted that most of their cases against fixers are often dismissed at the prosecution level as no witnesses would appear to support their case.

But aside from prosecuting fixers, Caindec said that LTO is also spearheading reforms to ensure that the practice of fixing at their offices is eradicated.

Some of these reforms include the ongoing digitalization of its services and increasing the number of LTO frontline offices in the last five years.

“We recognize (that) there still remain challenges, but the extension of license validity from three years to five years in 2016, and now 10 years should fundamentally address a major aspect of the volume of transactions. PMVICs (private motor vehicle inspection centers) are also the future, and soon we are looking at ATM-based registration renewals and online access for clients. LTO is getting there,” Caindec added.