House panel OKs mandatory SIM card registration bill

During a hearing on Monday, the House Committee on Information and Communications Technology passed a bill requiring mobile SIM card registration.

The House panel’s chairman, Rep. Toby Tiangco (Navotas), also supported combining House Bill No. 14 with similar proposals requesting the registration of Subscriber Identity Module cards.

If passed, the measure requires those who want to buy SIM cards to register their personal information with telecommunications companies or authorized card sellers. Users have been swamped with scam and spam text messages, some of which contain personal information such as the receiver’s identity, prompting the new drive for SIM card registration.

House Speaker Martin Romualdez (Leyte 1st District) and Senior Deputy Majority Leader Sandro Marcos (Ilocos Norte) – the cousin and son of President Ferdinand “Bongbong” Marcos Jr. — introduced the bill earlier, arguing that registering SIM cards will assist eliminate illegal activities and scams.

This viewpoint is not shared by ICT professionals and civil liberties advocates, who have warned Congress that there is no evidence that SIM card registration works and that registration may jeopardize personal information.

“Because of the country’s lack of SIM card regulation, it is nearly impossible to track down the people behind the text scams and hold them accountable for fraud, breach of data privacy, or other punishable offenses committed using an unknown mobile number,” Romualdez explained in his explanatory note.

“The time has come to 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.”

The identical legislation was then vetoed by President Rodrigo Duterte in the 18th Congress, with his spokeswoman saying the president was “forced to disagree with the inclusion of social media in the measure, without providing adequate standards and definitions.” The bill also requires the registration of social media accounts, which Duterte claimed could violate people’s privacy rights.

The bill is now sent to the plenary for further consideration.

Sen. JV Ejercito announced in a separate press conference at the Senate on Monday that he would support the proposed SIM Card Registration Act to combat the SMS frauds that are becoming widespread on social media.

“In line with that, I would want to support the SIM Card Registration [bill]. This would greatly prevent scammers and pranksters from doing their modus operandi,” Ejercito told reporters. 

Earlier, cybersecurity and privacy experts expressed reservations about the bill. Policy expert Mary Grace Mirandilla-Santos previously told that the measure may cause more harm than good because there is no evidence that SIM card registration prevents crime.

Sen. Sherwin “Win” Gatchalian, who introduced a SIM card registration law in the previous Congress, has introduced a resolution calling for Senate hearings on the scam SMS.



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