A consumer advocacy group hailed the passage of the SIM Card Registration Law and expressed optimism that concerns on its implementation will be ironed out through transparent processes, sound planning and inclusive consultation.
“There is nothing that cannot be resolved through dialogue and rational discussion,” said Atty. Tim Abejo, co-convenor of CitizenWatch Philippines.
“We finally have this opportunity to set in motion a law that protects ordinary citizens from fraudsters, thieves and other sinister elements pillaging our digital space. We have to do this right.”
Republic Act 11934 — An Act Requiring the Registration of Subscriber Identity Module (SIM) — was passed by both Houses of Congress on September 28 and signed into law by President Ferdinand Marcos, Jr. on October 10.
The law enables the state to “promote responsibility in the use of SIM cards and provide law enforcement agencies the tools to resolve crimes which involve its utilization and a platform to deter the commission of wrongdoings.”
But numerous groups have raised concerns that the law, despite its lofty objectives, might hit a snag in its implementation and may be used by some sectors to violate the rights of and target some users.
Abejo said the primary practical concern among telco subscribers is the required registration of some 100 million SIMs in the country within 180 days from the effectivity of the law.
“This will need a strategy that will be as painless and non-disruptive as possible for consumers and that will be achieved within the shortest and most feasible timeline,” Abejo said.
“The people also have to be given clear guidelines on how to register, and where.”
According to the law, existing subscribers have to register their SIM with their respective public telecommunications entity (PTE) within 180 days; the Department of Information and Communications Technology may extend this by another 120 days.
The personal data of existing post-paid subscribers will be included in the SIM Register. If a SIM card is not registered during the prescribed period, it will be deactivated or retired by the telco.
Likewise, all new SIMS to be sold will be in a deactivated state and will only be activated once the user completes the registration process.
“On this one, our suggestion is that all services will be barred except incoming SMS for one-time-password validation for financial transactions,” Abejo said.
Another issue is that an enormous database of subscribers’ personal information may be compromised and may even fall into the hands of digital crime syndicates.
“We want to know: while the National ID System is still being rolled out, what will be the identity verification process to be used and what safeguards will there be to ensure data privacy?” Abejo added, adding that a credible ID and signature verification protocol is key to purging the subscribers of telcos of anonymous SIMs rampantly used by crime
“All these concerns raised by various groups are valid and must be addressed accordingly, so that we will be able to achieve the ends envisioned by the law without endangering the rights of the people,” Abejo said.
He called on regulators to consult with all stakeholders while drafting the law’s Implementing Rules and Regulations, to ensure that all sides will be heard, and the most efficient implementation guidelines are adopted.