The House of Representatives and the Senate are eyeing the passage of a law requiring the registration of all postpaid and prepaid mobile phone subscriber identity module (SIM) cards by Oct. 1.
“The House and Senate leaderships are eyeing the postponement of barangay and SK elections and the passage of SIM card registration bill before our adjournment this September,” said House Majority Leader Jose Dalipe. “This is to ensure that the entire Congress is moving in the same direction.”
On Monday, the House committee on information and communications technology approved the SIM card registration bill as a way to reduce scams and criminal activities.
Dalipe said House and Senate leaders will meet again to finalize the list of their common priority legislation while awaiting the convening of the Legislative-Executive Development Advisory Council (LEDAC) to set the direction and other requests of the executive branch.
Senator Grace Poe said the proposed measure on SIM card registration will no longer include the provision on social media to ensure its speedy passage, noting that the social media aspect belongs to another committee.
Poe, public services committee chairperson said the version they will pass will exclude a provision on social media so there will be no issue.
The senator expressed confidence that the Senate can swiftly pass the SIM card registration bill as it had already been approved in the previous Congress by both Houses.
The Senate leadership has also made it a priority.
Poe and other senators also recently became targets of rampant scam text messages carrying their names.
“The registration of SIM cards is a deterrent for crimes. We almost passed it into law the last time and we are eliminating the issue of contention which is social media regulation,” she said.
Telecommunications companies and other stakeholders said that stamping out the scams will require a whole-of-community approach as the schemes used by scammers continue to evolve.
The companies have already blocked thousands of SIM cards, hundreds of websites, and millions of messages but scammers only get new cards and set up new sites.
The global trend, Poe noted, is toward the registration of SIM cards even in countries with the highest regard for data privacy rights such as most of the countries in the European Union.
Some 155 countries now require SIM card registration.
“This has been a long time coming but I hope the passage of this bill will result in a safer and more secure mobile phone use here in the country,” Poe said.
Meanwhile, the National Privacy Commission (NPC) has ordered telecommunications service providers to submit a comprehensive audit report that includes an examination of their distributor networks for SIM cards.
Privacy Commissioner John Henry D. Naga said the investigation involves close coordination between telecommunication companies and government authorities such as the National Telecommunications Commission (NTC).
The commission has called on Globe Telecom Inc., Smart Communications Inc., and DITO Telecommunity to assist NPC in its investigation, help identify the causes, and implement all possible solutions to mitigate, if not eliminate, the threats and risks brought by targeted smashing messages.
Telecom firms are to report all the mobile phone numbers involved in the smishing messages and the distributors of those SIM cards.