A former Department of Information and Communications Technology official yesterday reminded Filipinos to take the mandated SIM (subscriber identification module) card registration seriously.
Aside from saving their SIMs from getting deactivated, lawyer Jose Vicente “Jovy” Salazar said cell phone users will also be doing the supreme heroic deed to the country in its fight against global and local terrorism and most especially, cybercrimes that government authorities have confirmed to be on the rise.
“People should be well aware of the 180-day registration window or deadline as prescribed by Republic Act 11934 or the SIM Registration Act,” said Salazar, who relinquished his post as DICT Undersecretary owing to urgent family matters and his eagerness to go back to private law practice.
Previously, the DICT and the National Telecommunications Commission (NTC) said the deadline for SIM registration, which will fall on April 26, 2023, is based on the law and cannot be rescheduled.
“People need not worry if they are not immediately able to register their SIMs, but it is unwise if we will again let our habit of waiting until the 11th hour to register,” Salazar said. “Let’s beat the cyber traffic jam while there is still time.”
“NOW spelled backward is WON. And that’s the key to it, for all of us to move an inch closer to winning the war on cybercrime and other forms of abuse online,” added Salazar, a former president of the Integrated Bar of the Philippines from 2005 to 2007.
He has also served as Undersecretary of the Department of Justice in charge of the Inter-Agency Council Against Trafficking (IACAT), chairperson of the National Program Steering Committee (NPSC) of the Australia-Asia Program to Combat Trafficking in Persons in the Philippines (AAPTIP), and other assignments in an illustrious public service career.
The SIM Registration Act or RA 11934 was signed by President Ferdinand Marcos Jr. on Oct. 10, 2022, and as of March 7, the NTC reported that just 24.54 percent, or 41.47 million, of the 169.98 million SIMs across the Philippines were registered with their telco providers.
To meet the April 26 deadline, the government has to entice at least three million SIM card owners to register per day.
Smart Communications has accordingly registered 31 percent, or 21.12 million, of its user base estimated at 68 million, while Dito Telecommunity Corp said it has enlisted 24 percent of its 13.11 million subscribers and Globe Telecom Inc claimed it has registered a fifth of its 87.87 million users.
Another concern, according to Salazar, is cybercrimes that have been on the rise in the past six years.
During the pandemic period, the number of cybercrime tips received by the Department of Justice-Office of Cybercrime tripled to 1.2 million in 2020, from just 400,000 the previous year.
The most common internet crimes are fraud, sexual abuse and exploitation, bullying, and identity theft.
Before the COVID-19 pandemic, the country already saw a rise in cybercrime cases, as the Philippine National Police (PNP) recorded only 42 cases of online scams in 2013, compared to 550 in June 2019.
Similarly, online identity theft incidents increased (23 in 2013 to 258 in 2019), as well as system hacking (12 to 193), and ATM or credit card fraud (1 to 59) Salazar said.
However, a significant drop in text scam complaints was recently reported by the NTC, showing that the public is reaping the benefits of RA 11934 halfway into full compliance with the law.