The House of Representatives and the Senate on Wednesday night ratified the bicameral committee report on the SIM Registration bill which, according to Speaker Martin Romualdez, may gain the distinction as the first law to be signed by President Ferdinand Marcos Jr.
“This may be the first of the many legislative measures that will be signed and enacted into law by President Marcos Jr. in his six years of office,” Romualdez said.
Romualdez said the approval of the measure is timely amid the continuing proliferation of malicious text messages meant to take advantage of unwary cell phone users and could even pose danger to people’s lives and to public order.
“This Act will not only help promote responsibility in the end users of SIMs for electronic devices but also provide our law enforcers the necessary tools to resolve crimes involving telecommunication devices,” Romualdez said.
Romualdez is the main author of the SIM Registration Act approved by the House (House Bill No. 14), with Reps. Ferdinand Alexander “Sandro” Marcos and Tingog party-list Reps. Yedda Marie Romualdez and Jude Acidre as co-authors.
According to Romualdez, the expeditious approval of the bill by the House and the Senate bicameral panel is the product of a new coordinating mechanism that he and Senate President Juan Miguel Zubiri helped create in partnership with PLLO Secretary, Mark Leandro “Dong” Mendoza.
He expressed confidence it will not suffer the same fate as the SIM Card Registration Act that then President Rodrigo Duterte vetoed in April this year over a provision on social media that may give rise to intrusions and violations of constitutionally protected rights.
“This bill no longer contains the controversial provision that orders the mandatory registration of social media accounts,” Romualdez said.
Senator Grace Poe, for her part, said the reconciled parts of the bill were all “improvements.”
“As the text capital of the world, we hold precious our means to communicate and anyone who abuses or misemploy the system for their own fraudulent and unlawful interest must be traceable and subsequently held accountable,” said Poe, head of the Senate contingent to the bicameral panel.
Under the bill, all SIM sold are in a deactivated state, and end-users are required to register their SIMs with the concerned Public Telecommunication Entity (PTE) as a pre-requisite to activation.
All existing SIM subscribers are required to register with their respective PTEs within 180 days from the effectivity of the law.
However, the DICT is allowed to extend the registration for a period not exceeding 120 days.
Failure to register the SIM within the prescribed period will result in automatic deactivation and may only be reactivated after it is registered in compliance with the requirements of the law.
Under the measure, a SIM owner is required to submit a duly accomplished control-numbered registration form containing his full name, date of birth, sex, and address for registration.
The registration process also requires the input of the assigned number of the SIM with its serial number.
The form shall be accomplished electronically through a platform or website of the concerned PTE and should include a declaration of the end-user that the identification documents he presented are true and correct and that he is the same person who accomplished the registration form.
To verify the identity of the end-user, he is required to present valid government-issued identification cards of similar documents with his photograph.
Among the valid documents that may be presented for purposes of SIM registration include the following: passport, Philippine Identification, Social Security Service ID, Government Service Insurance System e-Card, driver’s license, National Bureau of Investigation clearance, police clearance, Firearms’ License to Own and Possess ID, Professional Regulation Commission ID, Integrated Bar of the Philippines ID, Overseas Workers Welfare Administration ID, Bureau of Internal Revenue ID, voter’s ID, senior citizen’s card, Unified Multi-purpose Identification Card, Person with Disabilities card, or other government-issued ID with photo.
In the case of corporations, they are required to present their certificate of registration as well as the duly-adopted resolution designating their duly-authorized representative, and special power of attorney for the registration of SIM of other juridical entities.
A SIM may be registered for the use of a minor but it shall be under the name of his parent or guardian who gave their consent and registered the same.
End-users who are foreign nationals are required to register their name, nationality, passport number, and address in the Philippines.
In the case of tourists, they are also required to present their passport, proof of address in the Philippines, and return ticket to their own country or any other ticket showing the date and time of their departure from the Philippines.
Their registered SIM will only be valid for 30 days and shall be automatically deactivated upon expiration of validity.
For SIM registration, foreign nationals with other types of visas are required to present their passport, proof of address in the Philippines, Alien Employment Permit issued by the Department of Labor and Employment, Alien Certificate of Registration ID, school registration ID for students, or other pertinent documents.
PTEs are required to maintain their own database containing the information required under the law and to ensure that the end-user’s data are secured and protected at all times.
Any information and data obtained in the registration process shall be treated as absolutely confidential and shall not be disclosed except in compliance with existing laws or in compliance with a court order or legal process upon finding of probable cause.
The measure provides specific penalties for certain violations of the SIM Registration Act, such as failure or refusal to register a SIM, breach of confidentiality, using fictitious identities or fraudulent identification documents to register a SIM, spoofing a registered SIM, sale of stolen SIM, and sale or transfer of a registered SIM without complying with required registration.
PTEs who fail or refuse to register a SIM without a valid reason will suffer a graduated fine for the first and subsequent offenses, ranging from P100,000 up to P1 million.
For breach of confidentiality, PTEs, their agents, or employees face a fine from P500,000 to P4 million.
Anyone who provides false information or fraudulent IDs to register a SIM, spoofs a registered SIM, or sells a stolen SIM faces the penalty of imprisonment ranging from six months to two years and a fine of up to P300,000.
The proposed law also imposes the penalty of imprisonment and fines for the sale or transfer of a registered SIM without compliance with the required registration.