DOJ eyeing potentially first prosecution under SIM Registration Act
MANILA — Some 28,000 registered SIM cards were recovered from a Philippine Offshore Gaming Operator (POGO) facility allegedly engaged in online scams in Pasay City, according to the Department of Justice (DOJ), raising questions about just how effective the new law is in curbing scams.
“The SIM Card Registration Act is supposed to ensure that all the owners are verifiable and that SIM cards are not used for unlawful purposes. But the presence of 28,000 SIM cards is, in itself, questionable already,” Justice Secretary Jesus Crispin Remulla told the media Monday.
He said authorities are now looking at how Republic Act 11934 or the SIM Registration Act will apply to this case.
Remulla said he will be asking the help of the telcos to “sort out a mess of this nature, of this magnitude.”
“The are many questions that are raised by these SIM cards because many of them are below the surface or are not at the surface itself. Because when you think of the SIM Card Registration Act, you’re talking about a telephone number being used as a text, call and text instrument within the telco system,” he said.
“But one of the things that we realized at this point is that many of these numbers are also being used in the apps that are there. And many of these numbers, even if not registered with the telcos or not being used by the telcos are being used through the app-based use of telephony,” he explained.
The Justice department, Remulla said, will look at whether the case is already covered by the law or if there are changes to the law that need to be implemented.
Among the violations of the law that the department will look into are spoofing of a registered SIM and misrepresentation.
Spoofing carries a penalty of 6 years in jail and/or P200,000 fine while providing false or fictitious information or using fictitious identities or fraudulent identification documents to register a SIM comes with imprisonment ranging from 6 months to 2 years and/or a fine between P100,00 to P300,000.
Other acts penalized under the law include failure or refusal to register a SIM, breach of confidentiality whether intentionally or due to negligence, selling a stolen SIM and selling or transferring a SIM without complying with the required registration.
The extended period for SIM card registration ended late last month.
‘POSSIBLE’ FIRST PROSECUTION UNDER SIM REGISTRATION ACT
Remulla said authorities will go after whoever is the registered owner of the SIM cards in what could “possibly” be the first prosecution under the SIM Registration Act.
The law was the first legislation President Ferdinand Marcos, Jr. signed in October last year.
This was not the first time, however, that SIM cards were recovered from a POGO hub alleged to be involved in fraudulent activities.
In June, authorities seized more than 80,000 SIM cards in a POGO hub in Las Piñas but Remulla said they did not pursue then the violation of the SIM Registration Act.
“But this time, it’s one of the angles being pursued because when we were looking at the actionable intelligence, this was already considered as one of those that could possibly be violated especially with the advent of the SIM Card Registration Law’s effectivity throughout this country,” Remulla explained.
More than 650 POGO employees were apprehended in the Pasay raid but only more than a hundred were subjected to inquest proceedings for supposedly engaging in love scam and cryptocurrency scam operations.
Of the more than a hundred, Remulla said 20 were foreigners while the rest are Filipinos.
“We have already made sure that in these scam activities, it’s not anymore just the foreigners that are being charged but also the Filipinos who participate in this scamming,” he said.
DOJ prosecutors are now preparing the inquest resolution, which could include charges for violations of the cybercrime law and the Revised Securities Regulation Code.
“Basically we’re looking at the scamming aspect of it. The scams that are being perpetrated using these very sophisticated operations of this magnitude. We’re talking about hundreds of people being used in an operation of this nature,” he said.
Prior to the Pasay raid, authorities conducted raids on POGO hubs in Las Piñas and Pampanga.