The end of unregulated use of SIM cards in the Philippines

I always wondered particularly after 9/11 terrorist attack, unlike most developed countries like Australia, mobile SIM cards are not subject to 100% identification in the Philippines. Furthermore, local telcos do not have the practice of keeping the IMEI registrations of mobile handsets and immobilise them if stolen. So its encouraging to see that the government now is support legislation for one of them. Let’s hope there is a similar approach to mobile handsets particularly when there is a significant black market for stolen handsets that is even being done in the side walks of certain parts of the city.

From BusinessWorld Philippines

September 30, 2014

Philippine gov’t renews calls for registration of SIM cards

THE PHILIPPINE government has expressed support anew for legislation that will require Filipinos to register their mobile phone SIM (subscriber information module) cards, which stores personal data, including names and numbers of people they keep in touch with.

The National Telecommunications Commission (NTC) has considered it preferable to legislate the proposal rather than merely implement circulars, Communications Secretary Herminio B. Coloma, Jr. said in a news briefing yesterday.

“It is preferable that a law be passed requiring SIM card registration. Previous NTC circulars in this matter were stopped by the courts. The Executive branch has manifested its support to proposed bills that are now being discussed in Congress,” he said.

In a separate text message, NTC Commissioner Gamaliel A. Cordoba said that the agency is in favor of the proposal.

In a Senate hearing Tuesday, founding chairperson of anti-crime organization Movement for Restoration of Peace and Order (MRPO) Teresita A. See called for congressional action on proposed laws that will require prepaid SIM registration to enable authorities to easily track criminals and avoid the spread of misinformation in kidnapping cases.

As many as 30 prepaid SIM cards are used by kidnap-for-ransom groups to communicate with families of the victims, Ms. See said.

Proposals requiring SIM card registration are making its way in the House of Representatives with at least eight bills — House bills 525, 858, 1519, 2444, 2588, 2624, 3602 and 3928 — undergoing committee deliberations while the Senate has yet to file its counterpart version of the bill.

“With Malacañang’s backing, the [proposal] would have better chances,” Speaker Feliciano R. Belmonte, Jr. said in a text message when asked about the matter.

Senator Vicente C. Sotto III has earlier filed a resolution urging the Senate to look into the rampant use of prepaid phones as “favored tools” in committing criminal activities due to their nature of “being unregistered and untraceable.”

“The end view is to come up with a legislative measure that can efficiently neutralize the use of prepaid phones by organized criminal elements and look at the viability of requiring the registration of prepaid phone subscribers and installation of a Global Positioning System (GPS) software in all cellular SIM cards to easily trace the exact location of the user,” Senate Resolution No. 136, which Mr. Sotto authored, states.

Last year, Malacañang said it needs time to carefully study such proposals, airing concerns it might violate citizens’ constitutional right to privacy. However, Justice Secretary Leila M. de Lima already said she sees no legal impediment nor constitutional issues regarding the proposal.

Sought for comment, Globe general counsel Vicente Froilan M. Castelo, in a telephone interview, cited the difficulty of implementing the provisions contained in the proposed bills such as having cellphone users to register at NTC regional offices, among others.

“[The] proposal is to go to NTC regional offices to register but that would be very difficult, let’s say on island-provinces. I don’t think that would be in consonance with the government’s universal access program,” he added.

Unless the registration is similar to a “credit card” type transaction complete with all details, “it won’t serve its purpose,” Mr. Castelo said.

“We are not against the idea per se but it would be better if we first have a national ID (identification) card system for verification purposes,” he said.

For its part, Philippine Long Distance Telephone Co. (PLDT) Group spokesperson Ramon R. Isberto said in a text message: “We will defer comment until there is an actual proposal.”

Hastings Holdings, Inc., a unit of PLDT Beneficial Trust Fund subsidiary MediaQuest Holdings, Inc., has a majority stake in BusinessWorld.

Meanwhile, Tonyo Cruz, president of Txt Power, said that it will take only “one rogue SIM card — perhaps stolen, on roaming, or cloned — [to] render the proposal ineffective.”

“It would spawn new crimes like the theft and black market. It is doubtful that criminals are shaking in their boots due to this,” Mr. Cruz said in a direct message on Twitter. “We look forward to seeing how Malacañang wishes to implement this in the country and across the world where Filipinos and foreigners have [local] SIM cards. And precisely how the data would be stored, accessed and used for crime fighting.”

Article location : http://www.bworldonline.com/content.php?section=Nation&title=Philippine gov’t renews calls for registration of SIM cards&id=95340

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