MANILA, OCTOBER 21, 2003  (STAR) The National Telecommunications Commission (NTC) has denied responsibility for the "unblocking" of stolen cellular phones, saying that it does not have the technology to "block" or "unblock" stolen mobile phones.

In a letter to Transportation and Communications Secretary Leandro Mendoza, NTC Commissioner Jane Borje also denied any "knowledge of involvement or participation" of any employee of the commission with any repair shop or trader "unblocking" stolen cellular phones.

Borje made the statement in reply to published reports that some NTC employees were conniving with unscrupulous cellphone repair shops and cellphone traders in reprogramming stolen cellphones in order that they could be used again even after they are "blocked."

The reports said the reprogrammers were charging from P1,000 to P3,500 for the "service," depending on the brand of the mobile phone.

The reports blamed the connivance of the cellphone repair shops and unscrupulous traders for the increase in mobile phone thefts.

Earlier, Mendoza directed the NTC to conduct an internal investigation to look into reports that some of its employees were involved in the racket.

Cellphone blocking has been institutionalized through the establishment of the One Stop Public Assistance Center (OSPAC), said Borje, who was designated chairman of the center.

"To further intensify our campaign against cellphone theft and other similar offenses, we have involved early on the participation and cooperation of all the telcos (telephone companies) and even the Philippine National Police," Borje said.

She added that the campaign "has been remarkably successful" because the incidence of cellphone thefts has "somewhat declined."

However, Borje said, "While we at the NTC do our best to cope with the fast-changing technology, the same fast-changing technology also allows unscrupulous people to illegally extort money from consumers as service fees by changing the IMEI numbers of stolen cellphones."

She said the NTC does not itself do the "actual blocking and unblocking" of cellphones. "All we do at the NTC is to order the telcos to block and/or unblock stolen cellphones on the basis of verified complaints or requests from the public."

To solve the problem, Borje said, the NTC has initiated talks with the Department of Trade and Industry for a possible tie-up in accrediting service centers in the drive against cellphone thefts.

The NTC is also conducting an information drive to inform the public on how to deal with mobile phone thefts.

At the same time, the NTC is looking into reports that there is an Internet service giving instructions on how to unblock cellphones.

The NTC has also launched the Text 682 Anti-Phone Theft Service where persons whose cellphones have been stolen can call up the agency to block their stolen handsets or unblock them just by texting the IMEI number and pin code of their lost units to NTC 682.

Reported by: Sol Jose Vanzi

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