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SIM card registration bill — The proposal that was reintroduced and would require owners of subscriber identity modules (SIM) cards to register their ownership has been passed by the House of Representatives on its third and final reading.
During the session that took place on Monday, 250 legislators voted in favor of the passage of House Bill No. 14, while just six legislators voted against it and one politician chose not to vote.
The original draft of House Bill No. 14 was submitted by Speaker Ferdinand Martin Romualdez, who also represents the Leyte 1st District in the House of Representatives, Alexander Marcos, who represents the Ilocos 1st District, and Yedda Marie Romualdez and Jude Acidre, both of whom represent the Tingog constituency. There were also legislation filed that were comparable, however they have all been combined into one proposed measure.
Just a few short months after former President Rodrigo Duterte issued a veto on the proposal due to problems with the registration of social media accounts — a requirement that was later abolished by House Bill No. 14 – the House of Representatives voted in favor of the bill.
There were six legislators who cast their vote against the bill, and among them were members of the Makabayan bloc. Concerns about personal privacy were expressed in relation to the compulsory registration of SIM cards.
Rep. Arlene Brosas, who represents the Gabriela party-list, claims that the measure operates under the presumption that every Filipino is potentially a criminal or a participant in illegal acts related to the use of a phone.
During the process of justifying her no vote, she stated, “Mr. Speaker, we Gabriela Party-list register our strong opposition to the proposed SIM card registration as contained in House Bill 14, as it embodies a serious threat to the privacy of communication and correspondence, and even to Filipinos’ right to communication.”
SIM card registration bill
“This proposed bill to register SIM cards puts forward a lopsided presumption that all Filipinos are considered to be potential criminals and evading the law unless they are registered as SIM card holders,” she added. “This presumption is lopsided because it assumes that all potential criminals are evading the law.”
Brosas argued further that the measure gives the misleading impression that it will solve the problems of spam messages and phishing, when in fact “these crimes and activities will not come to an end.”
The authors of House Bill No. 14 explained in the bill’s explanatory note that telecommunications companies have already deleted millions of spam messages and deactivated thousands of phone numbers because of a problem that could have been solved by requiring ownership registration of SIM cards. In other words, the problem could have been solved by requiring registration of SIM card ownership.
They also claimed in the explanatory note of the initial draft that the telecommunications company Globe Telecom Inc. had blocked over 71 million spam messages and deactivated 5,670 mobile phone numbers in 2021 alone as a direct result of complaints received from users.
On the other side, Globe’s rival PLDT was able to successfully block 23 million SMS messages in just three days, between June 11 and 14. The majority of the communications impersonated reputable businesses, but contained links that took recipients to websites that carried out phishing scams.
In accordance with House Bill No. 14, purchasers of SIM cards are required to present public telecommunications organizations (PTEs) with legal documentation, a fully filled out registration form, and photographs in order for their identities to be verified.
In the event that the customer does not show any form of identification, we will accept a clearance from the National Bureau of Investigation, a clearance from the police, or a birth certificate validated by the Philippine Statistics Authority that includes a photo of the customer.
PTEs who do not comply with the regulation are subject to the penalties outlined in House Bill No. 14, which was recently passed. PTEs face a potential penalties of up to P300,000 for their first offense, up to P500,000 for their second offense, and up to P1 million for their third offense and any subsequent offenses.
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