Malacañang, 10th of October — President Ferdinand “Bongbong” Marcos, Jr. signed his first law as the country’s chief executive to address the seemingly unmanageable and unruly spread of text scams in the country.
Marcos relayed the importance of his decision during the ceremonial signing of the SIM Card Registration Act, “With the signing of this Act we will finally achieve what has long been overdue, an effective means of regulating the issuance of SIM cards to curb the spread of spam text messages and scams.”
RA 11934 was earlier vetoed by former president Rodrigo Duterte in April 2022 when senators added a provision that would have also required SIM card owners to use their real names and contact numbers with their social media accounts. This is no longer a part of the new SIM Card registration law.
The recent spike of large-scale text phishing scams that proliferated in recent months — of which senators also received said smishing — saw the urgent passage of RA11934.
SIM Card Registration Act Focal Points
- Law enforcement agencies can ask telcos to look up SIM card owners’ details when they investigate crimes committed through mobiles.
- Telcos must give out SIM card owner’s full names and address in case of a subpoena
- Telcos must submit a list of authorized dealers and agents nationwide to the National Telecommunications Commission on a quarterly basis.
- Telcos must keep a file of subscriber SIM cards.
- Existing SIM card owners need to register with telcos within a recommended timeframe to prevent deactivation.
- Telco companies and direct sellers are required to ask for a valid identification document prior to selling SIM cards.
- If false or fictitious information, using fictitious identities, or carrying out fraudulent activities are traced when registering a SIM card, there will be appropriate penalties.
“Accountability in the use of SIM cards and aid law enforcers to track perpetrators of crimes committed through phones”, said Office of the Press Secretary officer-in-charge Cheloy Garafil. He further added that the new law, “significantly boosts government initiatives against scams committed through text and online messages which have more prevalent this year.”
Details on the Implementation of RA 11934
Department of Infomation and Communications Technology (DICT) Secretary Ivan Uy addressed reporters that telcos can notify users through text blasts of the need for prepaid subscribers to register their SIM cards.
He added that the National Telecommunications Commission (NTC) will spearhead talks and consultations with companies as they create the implementing rules and regulations (IRR) for RA 11934.
The DICT, Cybercrime Investigation and Coordination Center (CICC), and the National Privacy Commission will be the main entities in moving the implementation of RA 11934 forward. This was announced by NTC Commissioner Gamaliel Cordoba.
CICC Executive Director Alexander Ramos forewarned, “With the signing of the SIM (Card) registration law, scammers and hackers who are using this vulnerability in hiding their identities to victimize people can now be identified.”
“We worked hard to pass the legislation anew as a crucial first step to fend off text scammers while guaranteeing utmost respect to fundamental human rights,” cited Grace Poe, one of the authors of the republic act.
“Great first step toward the protection of the privacy of Filipinos that is currently vulnerable to intrusion from unscrupulous individuals who are using personal data to either misrepresent, scam or defraud consumers.”, reiterated by House Speaker Martin Romualdez.
How the National ID will be key for successful implementation
Globe Telecom Inc. welcomed the passage of the law and issued a statement to have the full roll-out of the National ID system will play an important role for RA 11934, “verifiable and fool-proof identification system is the foundation of the SIM Registration law.”
Globe general counsel Froilan Castelo noted, “Our position has been clear from the beginning, a National ID system must be in place to ensure the safe and successful implementation of this new law.”
“Doing so will unburden the telcos of the need to establish another database to store biometrics data, which would be time-consuming and resource-heavy,” added DITO Chief Technology Officer Rodolfo Santiago.
“We can assure customers that we have the highest standards of privacy and cybersecurity, in fact, it’s not just Globe, it’s really all the telcos,” Globe’s Chief privacy officer, Irish Almeida as they have also been working to operationalize the law since Congress started deliberations.
“In terms of infrastructure, this has been a discussion for a long time. My version was as early as 2013. So it’s been 10 years since we’ve been talking about this. So in terms of infrastructure, in terms of process, I don’t think it will be a problem with the telcos,” reiterated Senator Gatchalian.
Telcos should be given more time to prepare for the law’s implementation to test their systems and ensure the safety of information to be collected cited Roy Ibay, vice president and head of Regulatory Affairs of Smart Communications. Nevertheless, he affirms that the company is also prepared to participate in the crafting of the IRR.
Taking an opposing view was Renato Reyes, Jr., secretary general of Bagong Alyansang Makabayan, saying the law “poses problems for privacy rights as the Philippine government is notorious for illegal surveillance and violations of data privacy.” His concern stems from the data collected will not be safe since Philippine government agencies have been involved in incidents of data leaks.
“The Philippine government is a notorious human rights violator for years now, and any measure that would compromise privacy rights should be seen as a danger,” he added further into his statement.
All things considered, the new law carries with it swathes of grey areas on how this will be safely implemented. RA 11934 will also be a test on how confidentiality and privacy will be kept intact and sacred considering the details that will be gathered, the security of the database and stringent policies as well to those who access the information.
With this approaching change, we also need to be on guard if we are truly protected by first laying our privacy vulnerably into the hands of telcos and the government.
What about you dear CasinoHub.VIP reader? Comment below and let us know how this new law impacts you, too.