Press Release
September 2, 2015

Committee on Public Services
Public hearing on Senate Resolution No. 974

Opening Remarks
Committee Room No. 2, 2nd Floor, Senate of the Philippines
02 September 2015

We have called this hearing for the purpose of discussing Senate Resolution No. 974, which I filed, seeking an investigation, in aid of legislation, on the proliferation of text scams that defraud consumers as well as to inquire on the measures being undertaken by the appropriate government agencies and private telecommunication companies to put a stop to this activity, with the hope of finding a solution to eradicate it.

First of all, I would like to state on record that text scams have become rampant and uncontrollable in recent years. Just to prove my point, who among you have NOT received a text scam in your life? Let's have a show of hands... I see that almost all of us here are familiar and exposed with text scams.

Thus, it is high time we put a semblance of control over it and stop its further proliferation. Text scams do not only inconvenience us, they also cost the receivers money and may even cause further harm, if we are not vigilant.

I am quite sure that a number of us have received scam messages disguised as raffle winnings, promotional advertisements, or notices of accidental load transfers or account charges. Some messages even appear to be a text coming from a loved one abroad, banking on the fact that most Filipino families have at least one family member, who is an OFW.

In fact, dahil diyan, ang Villar Social Institute for Poverty Alleviation and Governance o Villar SIPAG ay nag-conduct ng seminar para sa mga OFWs at kanilang mga pamilya, dahil nga tinatarget sila ng mga text scams at iba pa. Ka-partner namin ang Ople Policy Center (na main advocacy ang OFW support). At inimbitahan namin na resource persons ang mga taga Philippine National Police' (PNP) Anti-Cybercrime Group and a task force of the National Bureau of Investigation (NBI). Ayon sa kanila, dumarami na talaga ang modus operandi ng mga scammers, most of which are part of criminal syndicates.

If you look at the screen, here are samples of some of the text scams that are out there. As I just mentioned, there is one that appears to be a text coming from a loved one abroad. The modus operandi is they will communicate via text message with the recipient and then later ask for load to continue the conversation. Marami na ang naloko ng ganyang modus operandi.

Then there are text messages that deceives recipient into believing that they were sent by telecommunications companies. One example: the texter will tell recipient that he or she has been accidentally charged a certain amount by the telco and in order to reverse it, certain instructions must be followed. But in reality, it is just a scheme for the victim to transfer 'load' to the scammer. The other example deceives the recipient into thinking that he or she has been selected in a special discount offer by the telecommunications company. The same scheme applies--he or she will have to follow instructions to avail of it and those instructions will only lead to transferring load to the scammer.

Finally, and the most common, are the electronic raffle text scams that deceive the recipient into thinking that he or she has won an e-raffle from a certain government agency, company, or foundation. And the recipient will have to call a certain representative to know what he or she has to do to claim the prize. Usually, when the victim calls the so-called representative, the victim will be instructed to transfer certain amounts of money before he or she can claim the prize.

Ang mismong foundation namin, ang Villar SIPAG, ay ginagamit ng mga unscrupulous individuals and groups para lokohin ang ating mga kababayan. A few years ago pa may kumakalat na mga text messages na sinasabing nanalo kayo diumano sa raffle draw ng Villar Foundation at humihingi ng mga kung ano-anong fees para sa registration o documentation at iba pa. We have issued warnings on social media as well as print media about that text scam. Manny and I have event sought the help of the NBI. My constituents and other concerned citizens have e-mailed, called, and contacted us to report these scam messages. We have kept a record of the texts they received. Patuloy pa rin ito at marami na rin nabiktima at nagbigay ng pera sa mga pasimuno ng text scam. Hindi naman naming pwede i-reimburse ang lahat ng mga nabiktima. Pero patuloy naman ang aming pag-warn sa kanila. We inform people that we do not have such raffles and we do not give away cash, we only provide assistance in kind.

Other government agencies as well, including the Department of Trade and Industry and the Bangko Sentral ng Pilipinas, have issued warnings to the public with guides on how to spot and report text scams. Ang mismong NBI, mayroong case files ng mga modus operandi of criminal syndicates.

In 2013, 1,179 text scam complaints have been filed with the National Telecommunications Commission (NTC). For the period of 2014, covering January to June, almost 1,000 text scam complaints have been filed with NTC. The rate at which these text scams have proliferated over the years is alarming and we need to put a stop to this. Palala na ng palala at masyado nang marami ang nabiktima. Hindi na talaga biro, dahil may pera na rin na involved. Bukod sa nakakasira sa reputasyon ng mga organisasyon o indibidwal na ginagamit ang pangalan.

This Senate inquiry seeks just that--tell us what measures are available to us to not only stop the proliferation of text scams but also to give us an avenue to track down those scammers. A closer coordination of NTC and telcos with PNP and NBI can help, because as they said, most text scammers are part of criminal syndicates.

Let me reiterate our National Policy under Article II, Section 24 of the 1987 Philippine Constitution, which "recognizes the vital role of communication and information in nation-building". But text scams contradict that and defeat the good purpose of advancement in telecommunications.

Having said that, let us proceed with the hearing, we hope our resource persons, especially the NTC--which is primarily in charge of supervision, adjudication, and control over all telecommunications services in the country--can provide us with answers.

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