AS online business and trading proliferate, both government and consumers should be vigilant against fake online sellers especially those selling medicines and other medical equipment, Quezon City Rep. Precious Hipolito Castelo said.
Castelo is urging the National Bureau of Investigation (NBI) and the Philippine National Police (PNP) to go after online sellers of fake COVID-19-related products, who, she said, are making a killing victimizing unsuspecting buyers.
“There are so many of these vultures, who take advantage of the pandemic. They peddle their wares on the Internet, and so many of our countrymen unfortunately fall victim to these scammers,” she said.
The lady lawmaker said the NBI and the PNP anti-cybercrime unit should step in to protect the public.
Castelo pointed out that law enforcement agencies have enough authority under the Bayanihan to Heal as One Law to arrest sellers of fake and substandard products, hoarders, price manipulators, profiteers, and other fraudsters.
She denounced people selling online COVID-19 test kits that have not been approved by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA), and poor-quality alcohol, face masks and other personal protective equipment (PPE) items.
“These online sellers have no accountability, because they are not registered with the concerned agencies like the Department of Trade and Industry and the Bureau of Internal Revenue. So it should not be hard for the NBI and the PNP and even local government units to stop their trade, apprehend them and file charges against them,” Castelo said.
Likewise, Castelo is suggesting to the law enforcers to find a way of having these bogus sellers blacklisted on the Internet and their posts and advertisements taken down.
“They cannot pursue their illegal activities if they cannot access the Internet, which ironically has become an enabler of their scams,” she stressed.
Meanwhile Castelo advised the public not to buy so-called rapid COVID-19 test kits from unreliable sources and not to use them on their own.
“These should be purchased from a licensed hospital or drugstore through a doctor’s prescription. A test should be administered and interpreted by a trained health professional,” she said.
On the other hand, Castelo said the government is partly to blame for the flourishing trade in bogus and questionable Covid-19 products, since it has failed to ramp up testing and build or accredit enough laboratories, and even supply its healthcare workers with sufficient PPEs.
She said some personnel of specialty hospitals in Quezon City are forced to obtain test aids from the blackmarket and test themselves to get instant results, because the more reliable swab examination still takes days to finish despite repeated promises by officials of a faster process.