Probe sought on fake celeb product endorsements

(PHILSTAR) MANILA, Philippines — The Senate should conduct an inquiry into the alarming proliferation of fake and misleading online celebrity endorsements and deceptive social media postings in relation to the advertisement and sale of various unregistered food and drug products, Sen. Jinggoy Estrada said yesterday.

Estrada has filed Senate Resolution 666 for an appropriate Senate committee to investigate the matter, citing the risks that the scams pose to unsuspecting consumers.

He also noted the spread of online marketing materials and impostor pages or accounts promoting unregistered products that promise treatments for various ailments or wellness benefits using the names and pictures of local personalities and celebrities.

“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,” he said.

The senator underscored the need to identify and address possible loopholes in the country’s existing laws and regulations as he emphasized the importance of updating their provisions, considering the extensive use of social media platforms and cyberspace.

He also pointed out the alarming use of maliciously manipulated images, spliced videos and fabricated statements in the promotion of food and health products.

The barrage of bogus medicinal remedies on social media platforms is viewed and even shared by thousands of consumers, providing them with inaccurate and false information about the efficacy, quality and safety of food, drugs and health products, according to Estrada.

“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 said.

The senator cited reports on the alleged product endorsements of Dr. Willie Ong, an internist and cardiologist with a huge social media following, regarding a “miracle food” in the form of mixed nuts.

Estrada also mentioned the case of Dr. Tony Leachon, whose name and pictures were used to imply his personal endorsement of a product as a cure for diabetes.

“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.