MANILA - A bill mandating the registration of SIM cards was passed Monday by the House of Representatives Information and Communication Technology Committee, amid complaints about the prevalence of "personalized" text scams.
House Bill 14 or the proposed "Act Requiring The Registration of Subscriber Identity Module Cards" consolidated different measures in the chamber for the same purpose.
All 52 members of the committee, except Rep. Raoul Danniel Manuel, voted in favor of the consolidation.
“The mother bill is HB No. 14 filed by Speaker Martin Romualdez, the
exact version approved in the last Congress,” Navotas Rep. Toby Tiangco, chair of the committee, said. The measure passed by the 18th Congress was vetoed by then President Rodrigo Duterte, citing a need to further study it due to a social media provision.
Rep. Jude Acidre, in a sponsorship speech for the proposed measure, noted how the unregulated SIM card market has been behind mobile phone scams, ranging from simple text messages asking users to send cellular loads, to more sophisticated voice phishing methods and marketing spams.
"We are also conscious of the fact that the accessibility of SIM Cards has encouraged unscrupulous actors to take advantage and use this in the commission of criminal acts,” Acidre said.
"This proposed bill shall require ownership registration of Subscriber Identity Module (SIM) cards to eradicate mobile phone-aided criminal activities. Moreover, it shall regulate the sale and distribution of SIM cards in order to promote end-user accountability, prevent the proliferation of mobile phone scams and data breaches, and to assist law enforcement agencies in resolving crimes involving the use of mobile phone units, within the limits imposed by data privacy laws and regulations," he added.
In opposing the bill, Manuel said that while its intention is good, registering SIM cards may have unintended consequences that may affect the people's privacy.
"While gusto natin na paghigpitin ang control sa SIM cards, pero nagre-rely din ito sa cybersecurity na meron ngayon ang ating bansa. Nandyan ang intention ng pag-limit at ma-monitor ang paggamit ng SIM cards. Ngayon na hindi pa ganun kalakas ang cybersecurity mechanisms, ang takot natin ay magamit pa ito ng kung sinong may hawak ng ating information sa kanilang interes," said Manuel, citing the alleged Comelec data breach reported earlier this year in relation to the 2022 elections.
Manuel also raised concern about having social media accounts registered, which, according to him, may affect the transgender and LGBTQ+ community whose members identify their selves with a lived name often times different from their legal names.
Under Bill No. 14, every public telecommunications entity (PTE) or authorized seller will require an end-user to accomplish and sign in triplicate a numbered registration form issued by the PTE.
The form will include an attestation that the person appearing before the seller is the same person who accomplished it. The person must also present valid identification cards.
Non-compliance mandates the PTE or its seller to refuse a person, Filipinos or foreigners, the sale of a SIM card.
The form will indicate the subscriber’s name, date of birth, gender, address as appearing in a valid ID with photo, and the assigned mobile number and serial number, the House of Representatives said.
The information will be treated as confidential, except if the subscriber grants access to it in writing. It will also be disclosed only upon order by a court or written request by a law enforcement agency in relation to an investigation of an unlawful act involving the use of a mobile number, the House added.
SIM cards sold or issued before the effectivity of the proposed bill will also be required to be registered.
The bill says PTEs will keep a registry of all subscribers and their assigned SIM cards, and must also submit to the National Telecommunications Commission a list of their authorized sellers/agents.
House Bill 14 sets penalties against violators.
The president and other responsible officers of PTEs will be fined up to P300,000 for the first offense, up to P500,000 for the second offense, and up to P1 million for the third and any succeeding violation.
Authorized SIM card sellers that violate the measure will be slapped with a P5,000 to P50,000 fine, aside from the suspension of their operation.
If the offender is an officer or employee of an implementing agency, the person will be dismissed from the service and fined, without prejudice to the filing of appropriate criminal, civil and administrative charges, the House said.