President Ferdinand Marcos Jr. is expected to sign into law the Subscriber Identity Module (SIM) Card Registration Act on Monday, the first piece of legislation under his administration.
Former President Rodrigo Duterte vetoed the SIM Card Registration Act in April this year due to a provision calling for mandatory social media registration. That provision has been removed.
The measure aims to boost government initiatives against scams committed through text and online messages.
Under this measure, all public telecommunications entities (PTEs) or direct sellers will require the SIM card user to present a valid identification document with a photo.
Information gathered will be treated as confidential unless the subscriber authorizes access to his information.
The measure also directs telecommunication companies to disclose the full name and address contained in the SIM card registration upon a duly issued subpoena or order of a court.
Law enforcement agencies that investigate purported crimes committed through phones may also submit a written request to telecommunications providers to disclose the details of the SIM card holder.
The measure is the consolidation of the bills approved by the House of Representatives and the Senate.
The House version of the bill, House Bill No. 14, was sponsored by Speaker Martin Romualdez with presidential son Rep. Ferdinand Alexander Marcos and Tingog party-list Reps. Yedda Marie Romualdez and Jude Acidre as co-authors.
The Senate version of the bill, Senate Bill No. 1310, was sponsored by Senators Juan Miguel Zubiri, Grace Poe, Sherwin Gatchalian, Joel Villanueva, Ronald Dela Rosa, Joseph Victor Ejercito, Jinggoy Ejercito, Cynthia Villar, Nancy Binay, Christopher Lawrence Go, Francis Tolentino, Imee Marcos, Ramon Bong Revilla, Jr., and Pia Cayetano.
The signing to be held at the Ceremonial Hall in Malacañang will be attended by lawmakers from both the House and Senate.
Globe Telecom Inc. and Smart Communications Inc., the country’s two biggest telecommunications providers, previously expressed support for SIM card registration and vowed to assist the government in deterring crimes committed electronically.
In a statement, Globe Group general counsel Froilan Castelo said the SIM registration law will take telcos “a step ahead of fraudsters and help achieve our shared goal of eradicating scam and spam messaging.”
Smart vice president and head of regulatory affairs Roy Ibay said his company was prepared to share its “knowledge of global best practices.”
On Oct. 4, Executive Secretary Lucas Bersamin said there is a “very distinct” possibility for Mr. Marcos to sign legislative measures that are awaiting his signature, including the bills on SIM registration and postponement of the 2022 barangay and Sangguniang Kabataan (SK) elections.
Senators said the passage of the act will help curb digital-enabled scams and other crimes using cell phones and the internet, which have increased this year.
Poe, chairperson of the Senate public services committee and principal sponsor of the bill, said registration of SIMs will be a “big help” when it comes to fighting crime and will serve as a deterrent for online scammers.
“It’s really more about tracing. Now, we will find out who registered that number. Even if a fictitious identity was used, at least there is a lead,” Poe said.
Gatchalian said SIM registration will enable authorities to establish the user’s identity and hold him accountable for cyber-crimes such as identity theft and the proliferation of spam and phishing messages.
Zubiri said the SIM Registration Act is a weapon to foil the evolving use of devices in criminal activities.
“As scams to harm the public rapidly change, so must the regulatory antidotes to them,” said Zubiri who almost fell victim to two scammers.
Another victim of scammers, Senator Cynthia A. Villar, said she believes the new law will deter online crimes, fraudulent digital activities, and scammers, and will be a huge help for law enforcers to track them down.