Online retailers told to stop Philippines sale of text blasters amid election abuse claims

Supporters cheering Philippine Vice-President Leni Robredo's candidacy in the 2022 presidential race in Pasay, Metro Manila, on Oct 7, 2021. PHOTO: AFP

MANILA (BLOOMBERG) - The Philippine government has ordered Facebook, Lazada and Shopee to stop selling unregistered portable mobile phone transmitters, which local media reports said may be used by politicians campaigning for the May 2022 elections.

The National Telecommunications Commission (NTC) said the sale of the equipment, which can send text messages to nearby mobile phone users, violates the law on radio control as well as an order prohibiting the use of portable cellular mobile repeaters.

The machines were being sold for as much as three million pesos (S$80,300) each in online shops, the Philippine Daily Inquirer reported on Oct 10, saying that political groups could be secretly using them.

The online shops were ordered by the NTC to stop selling the device marketed as "Hitech SMS Blaster", with their representatives required to appear before the commission on Oct 27, according to the regulator's Oct 11 order.

The equipment may not be sold, bought or used except by the disaster management council and other authorised state agencies in times of emergency, NTC Deputy Commissioner Edgardo Cabarios said in a phone message reply.

Earlier this month, the NTC ordered an investigation into emergency text blasts announcing the presidential bid of former senator Ferdinand Marcos Jr, the son and namesake of the late dictator.

The camp of Mr Marcos said on Oct 6 that it supports the probe, adding that the text blast happened when Mr Marcos filed his candidacy and suspects it was part of "demolition jobs" against him.

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