Duterte to PLDT: Expand citizens’ hotline or face shutdown

President Duterte has threatened to shut down PLDT Inc. if the telecommunications giant does not expand the citizens’ complaint hotline for frontline government services.

Speaking at a PDP-Laban campaign rally in Cebu City on Sunday, Mr. Duterte said PLDT owed the government P8 billion.

‘It’s always busy’

“If you see corruption, tell me. Call 8888,” the President told the crowd.

“Bong,” he said, addressing his former aide Christopher “Bong” Go, now one of the senatorial candidates of the PDP-Laban in May’s midterm elections, “add another trunk line. The present setup can’t accommodate all the calls. It’s always busy. Tell PLDT.”

“If not,” the President went on, “I’ll shut down their business. Yes, that’s true. I don’t want to brag, but they owe [the] government P8 billion. No President has ever asked for payment.”

He did not say what the P8 billion was for, and there was no immediate comment from PLDT on the amount on Tuesday.

PLDT spokesperson Ramon Isberto, however, said the company was looking into the President’s complaint about the hotline.

“We are currently taking steps to address the concern expressed by the President to improve the public’s access to the Citizens’ Complaint Center 8888 hotline number,” Isberto said.

The 24-hour hotline was launched in 2016 to receive complaints from the public about red tape, corruption and other abuses in government offices.

Established by the President through Executive Order No. 6, the hotline is operated under the supervision of the Civil
Service Commission.

Complaints are referred to the agencies concerned, and the complainants are apprised of the action taken until their grievances are resolved.

Be more assertive

The President has repeatedly urged Filipinos to be more assertive when confronted with corruption in government offices, and not to hesitate to report attempts through the complaints hotline.

On Sunday night, the President threatened to slap any government official who extorted money from citizens transacting business with the government.

He urged the crowd at the rally to call him directly to report if any civil servant tried to extort money from them.

“Call 8888 about corruption. And if they refuse to air it on the radio, tell the announcer that I will summon him to Manila. If it’s corruption. Director, all of them who extort,” Mr. Duterte said.

“If you’re asked for a permit, tell him you’re the one paying his salary. I’ll slap you,” he said.

“Yes, slap him, slap him,” he repeated, correcting himself. —With a report from Miguel R. Camus