Business Mirror : NTC probes ‘hijacking’ of alert system for ‘BBM’; Bongbong’s camp says they’re not behind it

News & Interviews
7 October 2021

By Business Mirror

The National Telecommunications Commission (NTC) is now investigating the illegal use of alert notification services that contained what are widely believed to be narratives favoring presidential candidate Ferdinand “Bongbong” Marcos Jr. because of its pitch for a “BBM,” the former senator’s initials.

However, Marcos through his legal counsel, strongly denied having anything to do with the hijacking of the alert notification services, calling it as part of a continuing “demolition job” against him.

NTC Deputy Commissioner Edgardo V. Cabarios said telcos have reported that the alert message did not originate from their networks. There was also no request that came from the National Disaster Risk Reduction and Management Council (NDRRMC).

Alert messages are for the exclusive use of the NDRRMC for disasters and emergencies.

“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,” Cabarios said in a phone interview.

On Wednesday, a “severe emergency alert” suddenly popped out of some people’s phones. It did not contain any advisory for some earthquake, storm, or tsunami. However, it contained the initials that Bongbong, the son and namesake of the late strongman former President Ferdinand E. Marcos Sr. uses: BBM.

The message read:

“Emergency alert: Severe

Buong Buo ang Malasakit sa Bansa.

Buong Buhay ang Maialay sa taong bayan.

Bagong Bukas na Masagana para sa masa

BaBangong Muli ang Pilipinas (V)

BBM sa bansa, BBM sa taong bayan, BBM sa Masa…BBM Pilipinas!!!

#BBM2022.”

Marcos is a presidential aspirant.

His camp, however, views the use of emergency alert notification as “among the many demolition jobs unleashed by those who obviously want to frustrate his candidacy.”

“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,” Victor Rodriguez, chief of staff of Bongbong, said.

Cabarios said the NTC should be able to conclude the investigation “early next week.”

“If the findings confirm our suspicion that a portable cell site was used, the perpetrators will be punished for violating the Radio Control Law and the Free Emergency Alert Service Law,” he said.

Probe

Meanwhile, election watchdog Kontra Daya said the alleged recent “hijacking” of emergency government channels for campaign purposes could set a dangerous precedent in future elections if left unchecked.

Kontra Daya issued the statement after the Commission on Elections (Comelec) said it would let other concerned government agencies to look into the matter since it falls beyond its jurisdiction.

“It is not enough for Comelec to say that it is ill-advised and for NDRRMC to deny sending the emergency alert. There is a need to know who is responsible, what kind of technology was used and why this is available to certain nefarious characters,” Kontra Daya said. “If the incident goes unchecked, this could be repeated on a grander scale from now until election day,” it added.

On Wednesday, the group said, some mobile users reported they received an emergency mobile alert, which appeared to be an election promotion material.

The message did not identify a particular candidate, but instead made use of the acronym BBM.

Among the aspiring candidates for the 2022 polls is Ferdinand “Bongbong” Marcos Jr., who is being campaigned by his supporters using the BBM acronym.

Kontra Daya wants the camp of Marcos to be probed over the incident.