Something must be done. And done fast.
People who monkey around the government’s Subscriber Identity Modules (SIM) should have the book thrown at them posthaste.
We have it on record from the National Telecommunications Commission a total 113.9 million SIM cards had been registered as of July 30, 2023, the final day after the five-day registration grace period.
This means nearly 68 percent of SIM cards in the country were registered, and the rest deactivated.
But something rather disgusting had reared its ugly head after the National Bureau of Investigation Cybercrime Division Chief, Jeremy Lotoc, admitted before a Senate panel that registered SIMs were being sold openly on various social media platforms.
The NBI also found a loophole in the SIM card registration process of major telecommunications companies when it successfully registered a SIM card using a fake PhilHealth ID with a photo of a smiling monkey.
Lotoc also disclosed his team had successfully registered with unnamed telecommunications operators’ SIMs using the photograph of a smiling monkey, which indicates unscrupulous individuals were able to skirt around the new legislation mandating SIM registration to verify identification.
Senator Sherwin Gatchalian said criminal groups have taken advantage of the fact that registered SIMs are being sold openly, adding tens of thousands of SIMs have been accumulated which were later used in investment, cryptocurrency, and love scams.
“The basic objective of the law is if we register the SIM, there will be accountability, meaning you can go after the registered person if needed because the anonymity is creating a lot of problems,” Gatchalian said.
We feel telco providers must place an effective form of post-validation mechanism to determine the veracity of a SIM card user’s details.
As Gatchalian said, “We cannot allow horses, monkeys, and gorillas to be registered. If we are not going to do something, this will happen over and over again.”
Under Republic Act 11934 or the Subscriber Identity Module Registration Act, those who use fictitious identities or fraudulent documents to register a SIM card will be slapped with a prison sentence ranging from six months to two years and a fine of P100,000 to P300,000.
The law took effect in December last year, mandating all SIM owners to register their mobile phone numbers.
Senator Grace Poe called the incident an “insult” to the SIM Registration Act’s implementation.
She said succinctly, “All of us here are playing catch-up with technology so the blame is not all lodged in one particular group. But, of course, we have to keep updating and it’s frustrating. It’s adding insult to injury if you see the smiling monkey.”
Perhaps the national ID system can help the authorities.
But they cannot just smile back and withdraw in repugnance.