De Lima seeks Senate probe into online sale of text blast machines
MANILA, Philippines — Senator Leila de Lima is seeking a Senate investigation into the reported online sale of text blast machines that are being “used for partisan political activities.”
De Lima pushed for the probe through Senate Resolution No. 934 which seeks to direct the appropriate Senate committee to investigate the matter.
This, as she cited the “possible use and abuse of such unlicensed radio equipment” following the Oct. 6 incident during the filing of certificates of candidacy at the Sofitel Hotel in Pasay City, where those in the area received emergency alerts seemingly endorsing the presidential bid of former Senator Ferdinand “Bongbong” Marcos Jr.
“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 the resolution.
De Lima’s resolution defined text blasting “as the action in a radio communication system where text messages are being sent to numerous and random recipients.”
“An equipment such as a transmitter is required to perform this action where such devices have the capability to deliver about 100,000 text messages per hour,” the resolution read.
The National Telecommunication Commission earlier ordered Facebook and online shopping sites Lazada and Shopee to immediately stop selling text blast machines, stating that no authorization was issued to the importation, manufacture, sale, and distribution of the devices.
According to De Lima, the Sofitel incident early this month was reportedly not the first instance of such abuses, as the “weaponization” of text blast machines was already “prevalent” in smaller towns during the 2019 elections.
The senator then underscored the need for Congress to formulate amendments to existing laws to prevent the use of text blast machines for such purposes.
“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 a need to consider whether the same should likewise be prohibited for political and election-related ‘spamming’ activities,” De Lima added.
She also said there is a need to strengthen the Free Mobile Disaster Alerts Act and prevent the use of text blast machines not intended for emergency use.
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