911 Emergency Hotline Incoming, But There’s an Expensive Catch

Posted: July 30, 2016 in Politics, Society
Tags: ,

I commend President Duterte’s administration. It has been working nonstop to deliver its promises. His proposal to institute a national emergency hotline is one thing that we should be looking forward to; however, the implementation reeks of capitalization.

A national emergency hotline is not a new thing. The Philippines actually has an existing system – Patrol 117 – manned by the Department of Interior and Local Government. Reports suggest that the hotline’s majority of calls received are prank calls. Come August, 117 will redirect to 911, and will go through a transition period.

Yet I can’t completely celebrate this move. Not when it’s charged the same rate as a regular call and on top of that, the duopoly telcos have already announced a premium of P5 pesos, purportedly to discourage prank callers. Of course the telcos are only too happy to make the charges; they can (and actually do) point to the government’s suggestion to charge the premium, but still.

What this means is that in case of a legitimate emergency, you had better hope you have enough load credits for a call, plus the five pesos on top, or else forget about asking for help. To me, a system that is supposedly put in place to assist during emergency should be easily available; the last thing on people’s mind during an emergency should be where to top up to make an emergency call. It’s just pouring salt to the wound.

I don’t buy that penalizing everyone will actually discourage prank callers. Like the issue on piracy, the ones that are being hurt by these draconian schemes are the legitimate users (callers in this case).

I urge the President, the NTC, and the DILG to think this through. What good is an emergency hotline if people can’t readily reach it. Access to help during an emergency shouldn’t come with a price tag.

Update:

Lest it be said that I merely complain without offering a solution, here’s one: Blacklist the mobile number used for every prank call. I don’t mean just on the hotline. The telcos can and should block that subscriber’s SIM card permanently rendering it unusable. If you want to go for the extreme, you can blacklist the handset as well. If that doesn’t discourage them, nothing will. Penalize the pranksters, don’t make life harder for everyone else.

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