NTC: Hard to stop text blasters’ sale if smuggling unchecked
MANILA, Philippines — The crackdown launched by the National Telecommunications Commission (NTC) on the illegal sale of text blast machines and other radio equipment might prove futile without an aggressive effort to stop the smuggling of these products into the country.
Sellers earlier contacted by the Inquirer said the portable transmitters mainly from Malaysia and Germany had surfaced in the local market without the necessary permits from the NTC.
NTC Deputy Commissioner Edgardo Cabarios said on Wednesday these devices apparently entered the country illegally and that the Bureau of Customs (BOC) would have to step in.
“That is their jurisdiction. We do not know where these are coming from,” he said. “The BOC requires a certificate from the NTC for any imported telecommunications equipment.”
A BOC spokesperson did not immediately respond to an Inquirer request for comment.
Order to e-stores
The NTC took initial steps to curb the sale of devices marketed under names like Hitech SMS Blaster and SMS Location Blasting System.
On Tuesday, the commission issued show-cause orders against Facebook (Marketplace) Philippines, Lazada E-Services Philippines Inc. and Shopee Philippines and ordered them to halt the sale of the illegal transmitters.
The Inquirer earlier reported that these were being secretly used by a growing number of politicians during their campaigns.
Even so, Cabarios conceded it would be difficult to stop the proliferation of the devices, which were virtually untraceable in cellular networks, as long as there were buyers.
“If you have ill intentions, you will do everything so you won’t get caught,” he said.
The use of text blast machines violates Republic Act No. 3846 or The Radio Control Law, which was last amended in the 1950s. Penalties include a P300 fine and a maximum of three months in prison for convicted persons, and up to P1,000 in fines if the offender is a company.
Text blast machines are being sold in the country at P200,000 to P3 million per unit.
Cabarios said the NTC also lacked the budget and manpower to effectively enforce its rules—part of the reason for its failure to monitor the sale of illegal devices openly sold in popular online shopping platforms.
He said the agency’s enforcement personnel in its regional offices accounted for only 25-30 percent of the total manpower, instead of the optimal size of at least 50 percent.
Last week, the NTC launched an investigation into the text blast that coincided with—and cheered—the filing of former Sen. Ferdinand Marcos Jr. of his certificate of candidacy for president. His campaign team denied being the source of the Oct. 6 texts, which mimicked the emergency alert messages of the government’s disaster management council.
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