AGHAM – Advocates of Science and Technology welcomes President Duterte’s decision to veto the SIM Card Registration Bill. Time and again, we have warned that the Bill, which was previously filed way back 2015 and was resurrected this year with additional provisions that include of the social media, is not the solution to resolve problems in cybercrime and internet trolls, but would only subvert the privacy and other democratic rights of the people.

The said Bill is a direct attack to the Constitutional rights of the people as the government will have access to personal information of private individuals. With the passage of the Anti-Terror Law, the SIM Card Bill will be an instrument for ludicrous and whimsical surveillance not only to those who are considered as “enemies of the state” but also ordinary citizens could become targets based on mere suspicion of people in power.

As a public utility, it is the responsibility of the government to make telecommunication services  accessible and affordable to the consumers for economic production and daily activities. With the SIM Card Bill, telecom services will further marginalize certain sectors of society. SIM Card registration would also deepen the disenfranchisement of marginalized sectors of society by compelling personal appearance to the telcos office for registration. This would be daunting for those living in remote areas who have no means to provide the needed documents and to be able to register. This begs the question, what will be the implications of this if they are not able to register their sim card?

Law enforcement is the responsibility of the state and it should not be at the cost of the SIM Card users. It is illogical for this government to assume that SIM registration will catch the criminals, instead it will pave the way for the abuse of power to invade our privacy and curtail our rights. When the government says that, “we should not fear the bill, if we are not criminals”, is a dangerous proposition given the fascist character of the state where red-tagging becomes a policy and has been institutionalized to sow fear to the people. They have used this same mantra time and again only to the detriment of people’s democratic rights, lest we forget the cases of redtagged individuals and groups whose cases have been dismissed.

We call on all Filipinos to remain vigilant for efforts to reverse the decision on the SIM Card registration. Let us not allow this bill to become a source of our vulnerability and threaten our privacy and endanger our lives. Let science and technology truly serve the people and not the interest of the few. #


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