Understanding the use (and misuse) of ‘8’ protocol license plates

November 19, 2018 - 11:26 AM
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8 license plate
A vehicle reportedly bearing an '8' license plate, became the subject of controversy in 2016 and launched an LTO probe into the manufacturing of fake license plates. (Philstar.com/file photo)

Officials have initiated a swift crackdown on vehicles with the “8” license plate, days after a driver of one such vehicle was recorded mauling another motorist.

The Philippine National Police Highway Patrol Group on Friday announced that it would be flagging down vehicles with the “8” license plate, which is commonly used as a congressional protocol plate for legislators, and issue traffic violation tickets and a P5,000 fine.

The directive comes after House Speaker Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo ordered the recall of all “8” license plates issued in the previous congress, following the road rage incident in Angeles, Pampanga.

Victim Jesusito Palma of Angeles City reported to the police that he was punched by the driver of the FJ Cruiser, allegedly singer and businessman Jojo Valerio, early on Monday, November 12.

Pampanga 1st District Rep. Carmelo Lazatin II was initially tagged after footage of the mauling went viral, but the suspect was later identified to be Valerio, who had no ties to the lawmaker.

Valerio, who was was also accused of verbally assaulting a another motorist on Congressional Avenue in Quezon earlier, was later apprehended in Tarlac City on Thursday, November 15.

The FJ Cruiser found in the possession of Valerio no longer had an “8” license plate and was painted with a different color.

He is facing charges of serious physical injury, usurpation of authority, grave threats and a violation of the Land Transportation Code, but posted bail of P4,000.

Weight of the ‘8’ plate

There are some who recognize why the “8” license plate has become the center of controversy.

The PNP-HPG on Friday, November 16 shortly after their announcement impounded two SUVs with the “8” license plate.

Ilocos Norte Rep. Imelda Marcos drew flak when she was seen leaving the Sandiganbayan after a bail hearing that day in a vehicle that had an “8” license plate.

It was House Speaker Arroyo during her time as president who ordered the regulation of protocol license plates for government officials, designating “8” as the plate for house representatives when she signed Executive Order 400-A.

Special license plates with low numbers were first ordered by President Carlos Garcia through EO 374 in 1960 to identify important public officials. Those who are given such license plates are the president, the vice president, Senate president, House speaker, chief justice, cabinet secretaries, senators, congressmen, Supreme Court and Court of Appeal justices, Armed Forces chief, Solicitor General and regional trial court judges.

Aside from the low-numbered license plates for officials, there are blue-lettered license plates for vehicles for diplomatic use and plates with “1000” for vehicles used by ambassadors. The name of the country the ambassador represents is usually found written below the number.

Vehicles bearing the “8” license plates, however, have been the subject of controversy in the past. Such vehicles have been described in complaints cutting off other cars, violating basic regulations or found near places of indecent entertainment.

Actor Oyo Boy Sotto, a nephew of Senate President Tito Sotto, in September 2015, complained of a Mercedes-Benz that blocked the street he and his children were crossing.

Former house speaker Pantaleon Alvarez in August 2016 announced a crackdown on the abuse of the “8” license plates after cars with the special plate were seen outside “sleazy” establishments. He  later ordered a recall of license plates issued in the 16th Congress.

Navotas Rep. Toby Tiangco was among those who pushed for a more comprehensive ban on the use of special protocol plates, as they had been associated with the abuse of the power and privilege.

The Land Transportation Office in January that year launched an investigation into the spread of fake special protocol license plates after a photo of a Toyota Camry with erroneous information on its “8” license plates was circulated on the internet.