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House approves bill requiring SIM card registration

The House of Representatives on Tuesday approved on third and final reading a measure which seeks to require all users to register their Subscriber Identity Module (SIM) cards.

Voting 167-6, the chamber approved House Bill 7233, or the proposed "SIM Card Registration Act," in a bid to track down individuals who use mobile phones to perform criminal acts.

Under the measure, public telecommunication entities (PTE), or those who are engaged in providing telecommunications services to the public, or the direct seller will be mandated to require the end-user of a SIM card to present valid identification with photo to validate the person's identity.

The PTE or direct seller will also require the SIM card end-user to fill out and sign a controlled-number registration form that the former issued.

All direct sellers will likewise be directed to register in the SIM card registration form the full name, date of birth, gender and address of the end-user which appear in a valid government-issued identification document with photo.

Foreign nationals who own a SIM card will be also be required to register their full name, passport number and address in the registration form.

The bill prohibits disclosure of any information in the SIM card unless access to information has been granted by the subscriber upon written consent, or upon a duly-issued subpoena or order of a court upon finding probable cause, or upon written request from a law enforcement agency in relation to an ongoing investigation that the SIM card may have been used to commit a crime.

Anakpawis party-list Representative Ariel Casilao, however, voted against the approval of the bill, pointing out that it may be used to repress criticism and dissent against the government.

Further, it would also pose threats to an individual's right to privacy, he added.

"Each subscriber should have full control over the mode of exchange of communication," Casilao said.

"There is no full proof written in the bill, that prevents or ensures from leaks of vulnerability of the information of the subscriber being exposed to unscrupulous or criminal acts," he added.

Casilao also took exception with the bill's declared aim of fighting criminality.

"It has been proven in other countries who have applied similar SIM registration that have failed in reducing criminal or terrorist acts," he said.

The PTEs will be required to maintain a SIM card registry and submit the same to the Department of Information and Communications Technology every six month and keep the data of their subscribers.

The failure of a pre-paid subscriber to register their SIM cards within the prescribed period will be enough grounds for the PTE to automatically deactivate its services to the subscriber. — BM, GMA News