Makabayan bloc files resolution seeking House probe on BBM text alerts

RG Cruz, ABS-CBN News

Posted at Oct 07 2021 04:17 PM

MANILA - The Makabayan bloc on Thursday filed a resolution in the House of Representatives to investigate the use of emergency text alerts system for an alleged partisan election campaign. 

House Resolution No. 2280 is asking the chamber's Committee on Information and Communication Technology to look into the supposed "hijacking" of the country's text alert system.

Lawmakers said that on Wednesday, the emergency text alert system was apparently hijacked and was used for political campaign, specifically for the presidential campaign of Ferdinand "Bongbong" Marcos Jr.

“The said 'emergency alerts' containing pro-Marcos messages, were blasted to many phone users after Marcos, Jr. filed his certificate of candidacy before the Commission on Election (Comelec)" the resolution read.

The text alert received by several people contains Marcos' initials and ends with the hashtag #BBM2022.

The "emergency" messages were blasted coincidentally when Marcos was in the Comelec tent in Sofitel while filing for his candidacy.

The national disaster council did not send this alert to telcos for dissemination, National Telecommunications Commission (NTC) Deputy Commissioner Edgardo Cabarios said on Wednesday. 

This is why Marcos' camp, according to the resolution, should explain why it is using and misrepresenting the emergency alert system for blasting clearly political campaign materials.

The resolution added that while the NTC and the Comelec should immediately investigate how it happened, Congress should likewise launch an investigation to strengthen Republic Act No. 10639 or the Free Mobile Disaster Alerts Act. 

This includes, they said, adding possible penalties for using the system for misleading or false messages or for the illegal use of other communications sites and misrepresenting its message as that of the emergency alert system, among other things. 

“Clearly, this dubious scheme casts serious doubt on the integrity of the system, which people are supposed to rely on for life-saving information," the lawmakers explained.

The camp of Marcos denied that it was involved in the emergency alert blast.

"No supporter of Bongbong Marcos resorted to such an underhanded method. His numbers are doing very, very well and we have common sense in our team. We will not do such a thing to undermine or undercut all the gains we’ve been getting after all the hard work these past few years, months...No way we’re going to resort to such an illegal use of a tool meant to save lives," Marcos' chief of staff, Vic Rodriguez, said.

Those who use portable cell sites improperly will be held liable under the radio control law. Individuals will be fined P2,000 per offense, while companies will face a penalty of P5,000 per offense, Cabarios earlier said. 

The Free Mobile Alert Act requires emergency alerts to be "hazard specific, time bound and area focused," according to the NDRRMC.

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