Supreme Court junks TRO plea against SIM registration

Mike Navallo, ABS-CBN News

Posted at Apr 25 2023 04:18 PM

BAGUIO CITY — The Supreme Court has denied the plea for a temporary restraining order (TRO) filed by the National Union of Journalists of the Philippines (NUJP) and several individuals seeking to stop the implementation of the SIM registration law.

Supreme Court magistrates made the ruling during an en banc deliberations in Baguio City on Tuesday, SC spokesperson Brian Keith Hosaka said in a press conference. 

Instead, respondent government agencies and telecommunication companies were “required to comment on the Petition within 10 days from actual receipt of Notice.”

Respondents to the petition included the information and technology, interior, and education departments; the National Telecommunication Commission; the National Privacy Commission; and telcos Globe Telecom, Smart Communications, PLDT, DITO Telecommunity Corporation, Digitel Mobile Philippines and Cherry Mobile Communications.

No reasons were given for the denial of NUJP’s TRO plea. 

There was no information as well as to how the magistrates voted.

A group of journalists, activists, human rights defenders and civil society leaders filed on April 17 a petition seeking to stop SIM registration and declare the law behind it unconstitutional.

The groups alleged the requirement to register SIM cards is a form of prior restraint, a violation of the constitutional right to free speech. 

They also claimed violation of the right to privacy.

The SC order came on the same day President Ferdinand “Bongbong” Marcos, Jr. approved a 90-day extension of the SIM card registration, which was initially set to end on April 26, Wednesday.

ABS-CBN News is still seeking to get the side of NUJP and other petitioners.

Aside from NUJP, other petitioners included journalist Ronalyn Olea, former lawmakers and indigenous leader Eufemia Cullamat, progressive leaders Renato Reyes, Jr., Alberto Roldan and Danilo Hernandez Ramos, Llore Benedicto Pasco, mother of an alleged extrajudicial victim, transgender man Dean Matthias Razi Alea, information technology professional and privacy advocate Maded Batara III, and lawyer Michael Christopher De Castro.

The Philippine government has touted the SIM registration law as the solution to numerous text scams.

The President hailed a 93.3 percent decrease in complaints against text scams received by the NTC since the law was implemented — from 1,500 complaints down to 100 a day.

But in a previous interview on ANC, Maded Batara III, spokesperson of the JUNK SIM Registration Network said SIM registration was not the solution to text scams, as it would only force scammers to go to the black market.

“If scams are the problem, then why not tackle the root cause of scams, which is — is the government and our private institutions protecting our data when we give it to them. Why do people fall for scams in the first place? Is there enough education?” he asked.

“Is there enough insurance that that Data Privacy Act of 2012 actually holds accountable the government institutions and private institutions accountable for leaks with regard to data we give them. That is the way to tackle scams, not over-broad provisions like the SIM Registration law which actually does more harm than good,” he added.


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