De Lima seeks probe into sale of text blast machines for political activities

Published October 21, 2021, 11:29 AM

by Hannah Torregoza 

Reelectionist Senator Leila De Lima is now seeking a congressional inquiry into the reported sale and use of text blast machines for probable partisan political activities.

De Lima said such activity is abusive and dangerous as it hijacks emergency protocol systems to “spam” people with unsolicited messages. She stressed that it is imperative for the Senate to probe the possible use and abuse of unlicensed radio equipment to send emergency text blasts.

“It is the primordial duty of the Philippine Senate, in the exercise of its legislative and oversight functions, to ensure that the government is strictly implementing the law about emergency alerts according to its intention and provide mechanisms to improve the country’s policy regarding emergency alerts and text blasting especially during election periods,” De Lima said in filing Senate Resolution No. 934.

Last oct. 6, some Filipinos rreceived emergency text messages that contained information heralding the presidential bid of the son of the late dictator and former Senator Ferdinand “Bongbong” Marcos Jr.

The National Telecommunications Commission (NTC) immediately launched a probe on the possible violation of the Radio Control Law.

Later on, the NTC ordered Facebook, Lazada and Shopee to immediately stop selling text blast machines, stating that no authorization was issued to the importation, manufacture, sale, and distribution of devices, such as Hitech SMS blaster, SMS location blasting system, and other similar products found within their platforms.

The National Disaster Risk Reduction and Management Council (NDRRMC) also denied sending out such text messages to the public through its telecommunication partners.

De Lima pointed out it is imperative for Congress to formulate amendments to existing laws to prevent the use of text blast machines for such partisan political activities.

She also said the said incident during the filing of the COC at the Sofitel Hotel area was not the first instance of such abuses. The lawmaker pointed out text blast machines was already prevalent in smaller towns especially during the 2019 midterm elections.

“The use of emergency government channels for campaign purposes could set a dangerous precedent in future elections if it is left unchecked,” she said.

“The Cybercrime Prevention Act prohibits unsolicited commercial communications. There is need to consider whether the same should likewise be prohibited for political and election-related ‘spamming’ activities,” she emphasized.