Science and technology advocate group, AGHAM – Advocates of Science and Technology for the People denounced the recent ratification of SIM Card Registration Bill in the Bicameral hearing of the Philippine Senate and the House of Representatives. “If signed into law, SIM Card registration will disenfranchise millions of users,” explained Chuckie Calsado, Chairperson of AGHAM. “Marginalized communities such as urban poor, poor farmers and indigenous peoples from far flung areas will suffer as they have little means to register their SIM card. They lack valid identification cards and economic means to process their registration as required under the proposed bill.” The bill does not specifically address the issue of sim cards as a tool for hackers using it for spam and scamming activities, as it only mentioned the penalization for the breach of confidentiality and negligence from companies. Therefore, the SIM Registration Bill would only criminalize the acts of citizens who would fail to register their sim card but not the intended groups or individuals who will deliberately misuse it.

Under the consolidated bill, every SIM card should be registered and failure to do so will result in its deactivation, users can only have their sim cards reactivated after registration. “The poor sector relies mainly on text messages and data for their daily communication. This law will make the lives of millions more miserable if they are cut off from their cellular communication,’ Calsado said.

According to the three major telecommunication companies, Smart Communications, Inc., Globe Telecom, Inc., and DITO Telecommunity Corp., we have about 120 million mobile users and 95% are using prepared SIM.[1]

If the SIM card user  fails to register, he/she will be penalized from PhP 300,000.00 to PhP 1,000,000.00. For the Public Communications Entity (PTE) or those who are responsible for SIM registration, committing an offense of breach of confidentiality will result in a fine from PhP 500,000.00 to PhP 4,000,000.00.  The sale of stolen SIM, the transfer and sale of registered SIM, providing false or fictitious information or for using fictitious identities or fraudulent identification documents to register a SIM and spoofing of SIM card are all tantamount to imprisonment ranging from six (6) months to six (6) years and a fine from PhP100,000.00 to PhP 300,000.00. 

“In ratifying the law, the people will suffer from a double effect of the law, where its primary goal is for data protection but in effect it prevents the people, especially, the masses, from accessing public utility telecommunication.  ‘ The justification of the proponets of the said bill is to address the criminal acts  but on the contrary, the government is imposing a draconian rule by weaponizing the SIM Card Registration alongside the Anti Terrorism Act of 2020 that established the National Task Force to End Local Communist Armed Conflict. In this context, those who are raising legitimate demands to the government can be arbitrarily designated as terrorists. If SIM Card Registration becomes a law, it could be used against activists, journalists, concerned citizens, and even political opposition that will expose and challenge the wrongdoings and corruption in the government,”Calsado added. 

“The proponents of the bill says it will protect us from cybercrimes and text scams but this we believe is just a pretense to control and militarize our consumers, one solution is to review the Data Privacy Act of 2012 as text scams and spamming are prevalent these days with users complete name. The existing law must be reviewed if the only goal of the SIM Card Registration Bill is to prevent crimes. Our lawmakers should be keen in crafting such laws, in their goal to protect the people from the harms of misuse of current technology they should be cognizant of the negative effects to the rights of people to access to a right and just telecommunication,” Calsado ended.#

[1]  “Telcos renew support for SIM card registration bill”. Business World, 23 June 2022


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