Telcos welcome passage of SIM registration law
MANILA (2nd UPDATE)— President Ferdinand Marcos, Jr. on Monday approved the SIM Card Registration Law, which is seen to curb text scams and text spams that have targeted many Filipinos.
Marcos signed the law, which requires SIM card or newer types of SIM (eSIM) users to present any official identification before they could use these.
The measure also aims to help law enforcement authorities "track perpetrators of crimes committed through phones," an earlier press release from the Office of the Press Secretary showed.
In signing the law, Marcos said the country will "finally achieve" something overdue, "an effective means of regulating the issuance of SIM cards to curb the spread of spam text messages and text scams."
"We will soon be able to provide law enforcement agencies the tools needed to resolve crimes perpetrated through the use of these SIM cards, as well as providing a strong deterrence against the commission of wrongdoing," Marcos said in his speech.
He added that under the new law, existing prepaid SIM card users would also need to register "within a prescribed period." Failure to do so, he said, will result in the automatic deactivation of the SIM's services to the subscriber.
The President also assured the public that the SIM Card Registration Act puts a premium on the protection of confidentiality and data privacy rights of subscribers.
"Any information in the SIM Card Registration shall be treated as absolutely confidential unless access to these info has been granted by the written consent of the subscriber," he said.
Under the law, public telecommunications entities (PTEs) — government or private — and direct sellers are mandated to require users to present valid IDs with a photo when acquiring SIMs.
Among the valid documents that may be presented for purposes of SIM registration include the following:
- Philippine Identification
- Social Security Service ID
- Government Service Insurance System e-Card
- Driver’s license
- National Bureau of Investigation clearance
- Police clearance, Firearms’ License to Own and Possess ID,
- Professional Regulation Commission ID
- Integrated Bar of the Philippines ID
- Overseas Workers Welfare Administration ID
- Bureau of Internal Revenue ID
- Voter’s ID
- Senior citizen’s card
- Unified Multi-purpose Identification Card
- Person with Disabilities card
- Other government-issued ID with photo.
Corporations, meanwhile, are required to present their certificate of registration as well as the duly-adopted resolution designating their duly-authorized representative, and special power of attorney for the registration of SIM of other juridical entities.
The country's privacy commission had said text scammers have already shifted to a "new modus," which already includes text aggregators for their schemes. The NPC mounted another investigation because of this, an official said.
WHAT WE KNOW
The House earlier said that all existing SIM subscribers are required to register with their respective PTEs within 180 days from the effectivity of the law. But the bill allows the Department of Information and Communications Technology (DICT) to extend the registration for a period not exceeding 120 days.
"PTEs who fail or refuse to register a SIM without a valid reason will suffer a graduated fine for the first and subsequent offenses, ranging from P100,000 up to P1 million. For breach of confidentiality, PTEs, their agents, or employees face a fine from P500,000 to P4 million," House lawmakers earlier said.
Telecommunication firms will also need to reveal the full name and address of the user "upon a duly issued subpoena or order of a court," said Malacañang over the weekend.
"Any information in the SIM card registration shall be treated as confidential unless the subscriber authorizes access to his information," the Palace said.
The House had said the measure penalizes certain violations of the SIM Registration Act, such as failure or refusal to register a SIM, breach of confidentiality, using fictitious identities or fraudulent identification documents to register a SIM, spoofing a registered SIM, sale of stolen SIM, and sale or transfer of a registered SIM without complying with required registration.
Former President Rodrigo Duterte vetoed an earlier version of the bill due to questions regarding its social media provision, which requires the registration of social media users.
House Speaker Martin Romualdez, among the main authors of the law, noted that the controversial provision is no longer included in this measure.
In a statement, Globe hailed the law's passage and said the law could provide stronger regulation against cybercriminals who hide behind anonymity.
The new law, Globe said, will also work with the National ID system, something that other countries practice, so they could authenticate the person's identity.
"A National ID system covers the majority of Filipinos and will serve as a crucial source document for telcos to counter check IDs that prepaid SIM users present as proof of identity for registration," the statement read.
Froilan Castelo, Globe's general counsel, said they are ready to implement the law, noting that they are helping authorities to craft its implementing rules and regulations.
"Aside from our advanced cybersecurity capabilities, we welcome a new regulatory environment that has stronger safeguards against cyber threats and other crimes carried out using mobile phones,” Castelo said.
DITO, meanwhile, said the challenge now lies with the validation of the subscribers' identity, and also noted the importance of the National ID system.
The firm noted that while they have an existing mechanism for their subscribers to register their SIMs through their multi-purpose DITO app, the central biometrics storage will be under the government for data privacy and security purposes.
"It will greatly help if both the national ID system and the passport system will be used as the validation of the identity of the subscriber," said DITO.
"Doing so will unburden the telcos of the need to establish another database to store biometrics data, which would be time consuming and resource heavy," it added.
Smart Communications also commended the signing of the measure but at the same time, it called for more time to prepare for the mandatory registration.
In a statement, it said the measure would impact not just the telcos but millions of Filipinos and retailers as well.
"There is a clamor from Public telecommunication entities (PTEs) like Smart to be given more time to prepare and test its systems to ensure the safety of the information that will be collected from prepaid subscribers - as an information campaign on the SIM registration process will be launched and Smart will ensure to provide its prepaid customers a smooth and hassle-free experience upon registry of their SIMs," said Atty Roy D. Ibay, Smart VP and Head of Regulatory Affairs.
Smart said it is willing to participate in the crafting of the bill's implementing rules.
The National Privacy Commission (NPC) earlier said it supports the passage of the bill but said the SIM card registration system should not be left to retailers who may not have the capacity to secure it, keeping in mind the possibility of data breaches.
The NPC noted though that there is a "strong need" to future-proof the bill to achieve its purpose.
This should be done in a manner that "respects the rights and freedoms of the data subjects," the NPC added, recognizing that implementing the legislation would require a massive collection of personal data.
"Mechanisms must be developed and implemented to prevent security risks and data breaches that may arise from overcollection and improper or inadequate monitoring practices," it said.
Meanwhile, the Cybercrime Investigation and Coordinating Center (CICC) welcomed the passage of the law, saying this would make it easier for them to identify hackers and scammers.
The law will protect "responsible users" and hold into account those who want to harm other people through technology, said Alexander Ramos, CICC executive director.
"This act outweighs the general security of subscribers than issues of privacy some critics have raised," Ramos said.
For his part, Ilocos Norte Rep. Sandro Marcos said that with the passage of the new law, Filipinos will be protected from text scams.
"Mawawala na iyong scam texts na nakukuha natin. Like I said before, medyo nakakatakot kasi pati ngayon, dinadagdag na iyong mga pangalan ng mga tao," said Marcos, who authored the bill.
Information and Communications Technology Secretary Ivan John Uy also noted that the law will "open the doors for digital financial inclusion," including digital banking and payments.
The registration process, he said, will be similar to the verification processes that popular e-wallets use.
Uy added that the SIM card registration will also be integrated with the national ID, which will allow the public to make transactions and pay for government services using solely mobile phones.
— With report from Raffy Cabristante, ABS-CBN News