COMELEC Vows to Hold Accountable Those Behind BBM Emergency Alert

NDRRMC, NTC, and Marcos' camp already denied any involvement.

bongbong marcos text alert
PHOTO BY CNN Philippines

(SPOT.ph) The Commission on Elections on Saturday, October 9, promised to hold accountable those behind the use of the Philippines' Emergency Cell Broadcast System to promote Bongbong Marcos' bid for presidency.

"Patuloy ang ating pag-aaral d'yan para mahanapan ng paraan para masita 'yong gumawa n'yan kasi napakapangit po ng ganyang gawain. Sabi nga natin reprehensible dahil emergency alert system 'yan e. Parang 'yan 'yong the boy who cried wolf. Sigaw ka nang sigaw, wala nang makikinig d'yan,” said Commission on Elections spokesperson James Jimenez.

People reported on Wednesday morning, October 6, that their phones rang with an "Emergency Alert: Severe" notification. This is similar to the country's disaster alert system for heavy rains, flood warning, and earthquake, facilitated by the National Disaster Risk Reduction and Management Council.

"Buong Buo ang Malasakit sa Bansa, Buong Buhay ang Maialay sa taong bayan, Bagong Bukas na Masagana para sa masa. BaBangon Muli ang Pilipinas. BBM sa bansa, BBM sa taong bayan, BBM sa Masa...BBM Pilipinas," the text read. BBM is the acronym used by Bongbong Marcos, son of former dictator Ferdinand Marcos and former senator. The younger Marcos also vied for a vice presidential position in 2016, but lost to Vice President Leni Robredo. He also filed for an electoral protest, but lost in the recount after the Supreme Court unanimously dismissed the case on February 16, 2021.

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The National Disaster Risk Reduction and Management Council (NDRRMC) already denied any involvement in the "Emergency Alert: Severe" text.

"Big no! Ours go through the telcos. They will surely not accept that from us. We are allowed only by RA 10639 to send alert messages on impending hazards," said Undersecretary Ricardo Jalad, executive director of the NDRRMC.

Republic Act 10639, also known as the Free Mobile Disaster Alerts Act, mandates phone service providers to send out alerts "in the event of an impending tropical storm, typhoon, tsunami, or other calamities." This was signed into law on June 20, 2014 by former president Benigno Aquino III, while implementing rules and regulations were released on July 21, 2015. Text alerts were initially used for the system, until the NDRRMC's Emergency Cell Broadcast System was launched on March 13, 2017.

The National Telecommunications Commission is also looking into the incident. The telcos reported that the alert system did not originate from their networks and that there was no request coming from the NDRRMC.

“We are conducting an investigation. If this is not from the telco networks, we suspect that the message came from portable cell sites, which are exclusive for the use of NDRRMC and its approved agencies," NTC Deputy Commissioner Edgardo V. Cabarios told Business Mirror in a phone interview.

Marcos' camp also denied any involvement in what happened.

"The illegal use of the emergency blast was done at a time when Bongbong Marcos was filing his Certificate of Candidacy and is viewed as among the many demolition jobs unleashed by those who want to frustrate his candidacy," said Atty. Vic Rodriguez, Marcos’ lawyer and chief of staff.

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Jimenez on Saturday said that even if the text alert was found to have come from a candidate's camp, it's still not ground for disqualification.

"Mukhang walang ganyang probisyon sa 10639, 'yong Republic Act na naggo-govern d'yan. Ang balita ko kung mahuli daw 'yan ang magiging parusa ay fine of P2,000 lamang. Napakaliit kasi napaka-outdated ng ating telecommunications laws. Ayon sa pag-aaral ng mga eksperto sa usapin na 'yan, the emergency alert system is not even expressly prohibited from propaganda purposes. Wala pong ganyang klaseng probisyon,” he said.

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