The Department of the Interior and Local Government (DILG) today announced that calls to the government's Emergency 911 Hotline are now free of charge, initially for PLDT, Smart, Talk ‘N Text and Sun subscribers, but warns prank and fraudulent callers of the hotline that they can be penalized under the law.
"Libre na po ang pagtawag sa Hotline 911 sa PLDT at tatlong mobile networks pero hindi ibig sabihin ay gagamitin natin ito para sa panloloko. Prank and fraudulent calls are punishable under the law," DILG Secretary Eduardo M. Año says.
"Huwag po kayong magdalawang-isip na i-dial ang 911 sa panahon ng emergency. We will not let the lack of mobile credit get in the way of saving lives as every second is important during emergency situations," he adds.
According to data from the DILG Emergency 911 National Office, on average, there are almost 3,500 emergency calls received by the hotline per month with more or less 100 legitimate emergency calls per day.
Año says that the DILG is pleased that telecommunication giant PLDT, together with its mobile network companies Smart, Talk ‘N Text and Sun Mobile Network, complied with the stipulation of Executive Order (EO) No. 56 s. 2018, institutionalizing the Emergency Hotline 911 as the nationwide emergency answering point.
Section 3 of EO 56 states that: "The Emergency 911 Commission shall ensure that all calls made to the Emergency 911 Hotline shall be free of charge and other fees."
The DILG Chief is thankful to PLDT for demonstrating corporate social responsibility by prioritizing the interests of the Filipino public over and above company income and profit through its compliance to the EO.
"Malaking bagay ito para sa ating mga kababayan. Free Hotline 911calls from PLDT and its other mobile network companies is a welcome development and a great service to our fellow Filipinos. Ngayon, wala ng dahilan para hindi makatawag sa 911 ang mga nangangailangan ng tulong," he says.
The DILG Chief says that hopefully, PLDT's compliance with the executive order will encourage the other telecommunications company to follow suit. "This is a proof that the law is working. We look forward to the same response from other companies. Para naman po sa bayan ito."
As of this writing, Globe Telecom Inc. said that it has an ongoing implementation within its entire network to make calls to 911 zero-rated and free of all charges and is currently completing the technical validation, and "remains committed to support Emergency 911 and all its endeavors."
No to prank, fraudulent calls
DILG Secretary Año says that they will not hesitate to go after prank and fraudulent callers of the emergency hotline as “such acts that disrupt the delivery of immediate response in times of emergency are punishable under the law."
He appeals to the public to dial the Emergency 911 Hotline for legitimate emergency calls only and stop using the hotline for prank, fraudulent calls. "Pasensyahan po tayo, kapag kayo po ay aming nahuli, kayo po ay mapaparusahan. May mga kababayan po tayong nangangailangan ng tulong na maaaring hindi kaagad marespondehan dahil sa mga prank calls na ito."
He says that prank calls are punishable under PD 1727 and those found guilty may be punished by imprisonment of not more than five (5) years or a fine of not more than P40,000 at the discretion of the court.
Based on the data gathered by the Emergency 911 National Office, from January - June 2019, 15.29 percent of the total calls received are either fraudulent, hoax or prank calls.
"Hotline 8888 has the same problem as what the President said in his SONA. I hope that the people realize that these call lines (Hotline 911 and 8888) are for public service purposes, hence, intentionally calling it to trick or fool someone is getting in the way of service delivery, and ultimately, of saving lives," he says