Telcos deny Bongbong Marcos text ad; NTC points to portable cell sites

Telecommunications companies denied involvement in the sending of an emergency alert that carried an advertisement about Ferdinand "Bongbong" Marcos Jr., who was filing his candidacy on Wednesday, October 6.

Speaking to Rappler, National Telecommunications Commission Deputy Commissioner Edgardo Cabarios said that its regulation branch already opened an investigation into the matter.

For emergency alerts, only the National Disaster Risk Reduction and Management can request such notices. Telcos did not receive any request from NDRRMC, Cabarios said. NDRRMC executive director Ricardo Jalad also denied any involvement.

"We're still doing an investigation but it might come from the illegal operation of portable cell sites," Cabarios said in a mix of English and Filipino.

Portable cell sites are those that are capable of sending messages to subscribers within three to five kilometers. Under NTC Memorandum Circular 01-02-2013, however, the sale, purchase, possession, and use of portable cell sites are prohibited.

Only licensed CMTS, or cellular mobile telephone system operators, the NDRRMC, and other government agencies vital to national security are allowed to buy or use portable cell sites.

What does it mean then? Cabarios said that the person responsible could have acquired the mobile cell site either illegally or "legally" through the said allowed entities who can purchase these kinds of equipment.

Cabarios added that since these message blasts happen within seconds, it is "very difficult" to track the perpetrators down,

"Napakahirap to track this down habang 'yan ay nililipat from one place to another naka-off 'yan. Wala kang way to know kung san pupunta," he said.

(The portable cell site is very difficult to track while it is being transferred from one place to another because usually that is turned off. You don't have a way to know where it is going next.)

Cabarios said that the NTC will ask for the assistance of law enforcement agencies if the Regulation Branch deems it fit.

In a statement later on Wednesday, the Marcos camp also denied involvement, calling the matter a "demolition job."

"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," said lawyer Victor Rodriguez, Marcos' chief of staff. – Rappler.com

Aika Rey

Aika Rey is a business reporter for Rappler. She covered the Senate of the Philippines before fully diving into numbers and companies. Got tips? Find her on Twitter at @reyaika or shoot her an email at aika.rey@rappler.com.

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