The National Telecommunications Commission (NTC) has ordered an immediate investigation into the emergency text blasts promoting former senator Ferdinand “Bongbong” Marcos Jr., as telco companies have said the alert did not come from them.
NTC Deputy Commissioner Edgardo Cabarios told GMA News Online that the commission “has directed our regulation branch to investigate this sending an emergency alert, when it’s not actually an emergency.”
The alert says: “Buong Buo and Malasakit sa Bansa. Buong Buhay and Maialay sa taong bayan. Bagong Bukas na Masagana para sa masa. Babangon Muli ang Pilipinas (V) BBM sa bansa. BBM sa taong bayan, BBM sa Masa... BBM Pilipinas #BBM2022”
Various cellphone users in the area received the alert after Marcos Jr. filed his certificate of candidacy for president for the 2022 elections at the Harbor Garden Tent at Sofitel Philippine Plaza Manila in Pasay City on Wednesday.
Marcos chief of staff and lawyer Vic Rodriguez said they supported NTC’s “swift action.”
“The illegal use of the emergency blast was done at a time when Bongbong Marcos was filing his CoC and is viewed as among the many demolition jobs unleashed by those who obviously want to frustrate his candidacy,” he said.
“BBM and his family received similar alert notifications. We should not tolerate any group or groups’ underhanded moves to trivialize this very special tool meant to forewarn every single Filipino of an impending, actual, or post-disaster event or scenario,” Rodriguez added.
“To those behind this despicable deed, we appeal that you do not please mess with a functioning government system that is purposely meant to save lives just so you may advance your agenda of derailing the candidacy” of Marcos Jr., he added.
The National Disaster Risk Reduction and Management Council (NDRRMC) also denied any hand in the emergency alert, as it only learned about the alert from the media, said Executive Director Ricardo Jalad.
“I really don’t know how it happened. That particular message did not come from the NDRRMC,” he said in a text message to ABS-CBN News.
The Free Mobile Alert Act requires emergency alerts to be “hazard specific, time bound and area focused,” Jalad said.
Bayan Muna party-list Rep. Carlos Zarate and chairman Neri Colmenares have urged the NTC and the Department of Information and Communications Technology (DICT) to investigate the matter.
Cabarios said the NTC has already coordinated with telcos and asked them whether the emergency alert went through their networks.
“But, according to them, no such emergency alert coursed through them. An emergency alert originates only from the NDRRMC so they would know, but there is none, according to them,” he said.
The NTC executive said the emergency alert may have come from the illegal operation of “portable cell sites” -- radio-based stations which use the frequencies of mobile networks.
He added that only the NDRRMC and those given permission are allowed to use portable cell sites for emergency communications purposes only.
“For example, in certain localities where communications are down, it will be set up to blast messages to residents within that area on what to do during an emergency,” Cabarios said.