911 and Bato

Everybody knows President Duterte wants 911 for the entire country just like what he started in Davao City when he was mayor, but they do not know that it was Police Director-General Ronald “Bato” dela Rosa who pushed its nationwide implementation and launching in mere 30 days.

Before General Bato even assumed command as chief of the Philippine National Police (PNP), he expressed his desire to use 911 as the police hotline. He said that “the 911 system in Davao was a big factor in helping the police effectively suppress crime and illegal drugs in the city.” He added that 911 enables the citizens to help the police fight crime. “Nobody really uses or remembers 117,” he said, referring to the existing national emergency hotline managed by the Department of Interior and Local Government (DILG).

On the 911 launch last Monday, August 1, during the 24th anniversary of the Police Community Relations Group (PCRG) at Camp Crame, Quezon City, General Bato narrated how his wish was granted in just one month.

He said that when he said he wanted to change the existing 117 to 911 as the national emergency response number, PLDT told the police that “it will be difficult and will take a very long time.” They said that the number 911 is the prefix for the delivery number of Pizza Hut so it might be complicated and making the shift might take at least a year. But the police said that time frame is unacceptable given that President Duterte has only given them three to six months to make the Philippines drug-free and significantly reduce crime. Without 911, the people will not be able to effectively report crime to the police so they can immediately respond.

To explore the possibility of making 911 happen nationwide, PLDT convened a meeting on June 29, the day before President Duterte’s inauguration, and invited Atty. Rodolfo Salalima, the incoming Secretary of the newly-created Department of Communication and Information Technology (DCIT), who was represented by former National Telecommunications Commissioner, Gen Eliseo Rio, and key officials of the PNP led by Gen. Archie Gamboa.

During that meeting, it was stressed that the guidelines that everyone should follow when it comes to taking Davao-style 911 nationwide are: (1) the calls should be free of charge to the caller like in Davao, where the cost is subsidized by the government; (2) police must take the lead in responding since their communications infrastructure is already in place nationwide; and (3) the goal must be to integrate all kinds of emergency response into one system and the infrastructure to do this must be built and sustained by the local government units.

On July 14, the 70th birthday of PLDT Chair and CEO Manny V. Pangilinan, a Memorandum of Agreement (MOA) was signed by all the telecommunications companies and the DCIT and the DILG and private sector leaders led by the Foundation for Crime Prevention (FCP) during the closing ceremony of the national conference of the Employees Confederation of the Philippines (ECOP). The MOA essentially binds all parties to convert the existing 117 to 911 as the national emergency number, following the Davao model. This paved the way for the fast tracking of the implementation of 911 as requested by Gen. Bato.

Today, our first responders are the police. They will be the ones to answer first. And they are ready to serve and protect 24/7 the Filipino people wherever they are in the country by just calling 911. Responses for other emergencies like fire, medical, disaster, etc. will be integrated once the local governments have established their coordinated system.

Change is, indeed, here. An innovative system that worked so well in Davao is now being implemented nationwide, thanks to the strong leadership of President Duterte, who really insisted on having 911 as our emergency response number. And thanks to General Bato for being the first to ask that they take it nationwide in just 30 days.

They said before it cannot be done in Davao, but it was done. Then they said it cannot be done in the whole Philippines, but it has happened in just 30 days. With this 911 nationwide project, we have once again proven that with a strong leader who has the support of the people, we can make change happen immediately.

First appeared on Mindanao Times, August 4, 2016