SIM card registration bill gets 250 House votes, passes Senate second reading

Metro Manila (CNN Philippines, September 19) — The bill seeking the mandatory registration of subscriber identity modules (SIMs) in the Philippines received the Senate’s approval on second reading, right after getting a 250-6-1 vote in the House of Representatives.

Senator Grace Poe, Senate public services committee chairperson, expressed hope that the immediate passage of the proposed SIM Registration Act (Senate Bill No. 1310) would help deter crimes committed using mobile phones and other electronic devices.

If passed into law, the bill mandates SIM card users to register their personal information with telecommunications bodies or authorized card sellers by presenting valid government IDs and documents.

Poe said the bill aims to curb mobile phone and electronic communication-aided crimes — from texts scams to terrorist activities.

Under the bill, minors who bear SIMs shall register using their parents’ or guardians’ names.

Re-filed in the 19th Congress, the proposed measure was also amended to expand its coverage from ordinary SIM cards to newer types of SIMs, such as eSIMs.

In the bill, the word “card” in “SIM card” has been dropped “to make way for newer types of SIM that are not contained in card form, such as eSIM.”

“We are future-proofing a regulation that deals with technology to ensure that this law will adapt to the creative ways of fraudsters,” Poe said.

The senator also highlighted that the bill institutionalizes the needed measures to guarantee data protection and privacy of citizens.

Telcos, meanwhile, are tasked to protect submitted personal information in a secure database.

Their compliance with security standards will be audited by the Department of Information and Communications Technology (DICT) annually.

“Heavy emphasis is placed on the absolute confidentiality of submitted information, and disclosure is only allowed upon a court order or subpoena, or with the consent of the subscriber, or in compliance with the Data Privacy Act,” Poe said.

Any breach of confidentiality will be punished, the senator assured.

The proposed law will include penalties for “spoofing,” or the altering of the SIMs to make it appear that messages were sent by other registered users.

“It’s not a silver bullet, but it’s a step in the right direction,” Poe said.

Previously, House Bill No. 14, the primary bill, was filed and authored by Speaker Martin Romualdez, Ilocos 1st District Rep. Alexander Marcos, and Tingog Party-list Reps. Yedda Marie Romualdez and Jude Acidre.

The approved bill proposed measures for the mandatory registration of SIM cards, established a SIM card sale and registration system for all users, and requires all Public Telecommunications Entities (PTEs) to submit to the National Telecommunications Commission (NTC) verified lists of authorized dealers and agents nationwide.

Former President Rodrigo Duterte in April vetoed an earlier filed measure, citing the need for a more “thorough study” on the matter. 

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