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Wednesday, December 6, 2023

Congress urged to refile SIM card bill

An advocacy group urges Congress to refile and immediately pass a bill mandating SIM card registration that was vetoed by then President Rodrigo Duterte.

“We need this law because of the proliferation of scammers, fraudsters, trolls and disinformation agents who are emboldened by anonymity to do their dark deeds,” said lawyer Tim Abejo, co-convenor of CitizenWatch Philippines.

The SIM Card Registration Act requires telecommunication companies (telcos) to register SIM cards at the point of sale and before activation. Existing and active subscribers must register their SIMs within 180 days from the law’s effectivity, with a possible extension of 120 days.

Upon expiration of the deadline, the telcos are authorized to deactivate unregistered SIMs.

“Our lawmakers need to step in and correct this unfettered anonymity,” Abejo said. “Too many Filipinos are falling prey to these fraudsters and online goons. Technology should make our lives better, not worse,” he stressed.

According to Abejo, the ratified version of the SIM Card Registration Law will protect consumers from internet or electronic communication-aided crimes like terrorism, text scams, unsolicited indecent or obscene messages, bank fraud, libel, anonymous online defamation, trolling, and the spread of digital disinformation or fake news.

“Requiring the registration of SIM cards establishes the identity of users and makes them accountable for everything that they do with their number,” Abejo explained. “That, then, deters perpetrators from committing cybercrimes because they can no longer hide behind false identities.”

Telco giant Globe said implementation of the law, when it finally takes effect, is extremely vital.

In an earlier statement, Globe president Ernest Cu expressed full support for the SIM Card Registration Act, but pointed out how easily fake identification cards (IDs) are obtained in the country.

He emphasized the need for the speedy rollout of the National ID system and called on the government to hasten the implementation of APIs into the national ID system that allows checks once registration has been implemented.

“We lack reliable IT (information technology) systems. We don’t want anyone to think that the silver bullet of registration will solve all fraud, terrorism, and crime-related identification,” Cu said.

Abejo further lamented the marked increase in text scams where unsuspecting users are fooled into divulging sensitive personal information to those who use them to steal money from victim’s accounts.

“The fake identities of cybercriminals and trolls allow them to operate wantonly with no fear of being apprehended. Consumers are easy targets with their sophisticated modus-operandi,” Abejo said.

“When SIM cards – which are linked to social media accounts – are registered, those victimizing online shoppers and those fueling confusion, hate and disinformation will know that they can be traced and prosecuted.”

“CitizenWatch Philippines called on legislators to pass a new version of the SIM Card Registration Act and for the President to certify this as urgent. Congress must act with urgency on this important policy measure to protect our citizens from the relentless attack of cybercriminals,” Abejo said.

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