Senate probe on fake celebrity endorsement on Facebook, other social media platforms sought

(MANILA BULLETIN) Senator Jinggoy Ejercito Estrada has filed a resolution calling on the Senate to investigate the proliferation of fake celebrity endorsements online, victimizing consumers to buy unregistered drugs and food items.

In filing Senate Resolution No. 666, Estrada cited the risks the said scam poses to unsuspecting consumers.

“These advertisements mislead consumers into believing that these celebrities are using and endorsing food and medicinal products that are actually unregistered before the proper health authorities and not yet approved for mass distribution and public consumption,” Estrada said.

Furthermore, he said the spread of online marketing materials and imposter pages or accounts promoting unregistered products that promise treatment for various ailments or wellness benefits using the names and pictures of local personalities and celebrities is detrimental to public health.

He pointed out thousands of consumers are deceived by these advertisements that are shared on social media platforms and viewed and shared by netizens, giving inaccurate and false information about the efficacy, quality and safety of food, drugs and health products.

“The circulation and proliferation of fraudulent online advertisements are clear and blatant violations of the Consumer Act, which penalizes the dissemination of deceptive and misleading sales promotion practices,” he pointed out.

Estrada cited the case of cardiologist Dr. Willie Ong, who has a huge social media following. An online ad allegedly promoted by Ong features a “miracle food” in the form of mixed nuts.

He also said another online ad for a product claiming to cure diabetes features Dr. Tony Leachon’s name and photos.

Another product, Golden Gout Colostrum, which claims to be the “number one solution to gout” is also being promoted on Facebook.

“The said product does not appear in the record of FDA’s (Food and Drug Administration) registered food and drug products,” Estrada noted.

Other fraudulent ads also feature famous Filipino personalities and celebrities such as Sharon Cuneta and Kris Aquino.

“There is an urgent need to protect consumers against the consumption of unregistered and potentially harmful food and health products through the strict enforcement of the provisions of the Consumer Act and regulation of fraudulent advertisements on social media platforms,” Estrada said.

“The promotion and consumption of unsafe dietary products and drugs in the market pose threat to public health,” he pointed out.

Estrada also noted the need to identify and address possible loopholes in the country’s existing laws and regulations, particularly on the need to update their provisions, considering the extensive use of social media platforms and cyberspace.

The Senate, he also said, should look into these maliciously manipulated images, spliced videos and fabricated statements in the promotion of food and health products.