House approves national ID bill

Jess Diaz - The Philippine Star

MANILA, Philippines — The House of Representatives approved on third and final reading yesterday a bill prescribing a single identification (ID) card for all Filipinos.

The chamber also passed another proposed law that would allow foreigners to own public utilities.

Bill 6221 establishing a “Filipino identification system” was approved by a vote of 142-7, while 135 voted for Bill 5828 on public utilities and eight opposed it.

Bill 6221 mandates the Philippine Statistics Authority (PSA) to establish a national identification database to be known as the Filipino identification system (Filsys).

Every Filipino of legal age, whether residing here or abroad, would be required to register with Filsys, provide it basic personal information and be issued an ID card. 

The information would include the registrant’s full name, date and place of birth, permanent address and blood type. The PSA is required to treat the data as strictly confidential.

The national ID card would have a non-transferrable lifetime reference number. It would be acceptable as valid proof of identify in all government and private offices.

Authors said a national ID system would help the government flush out terrorists and go after criminals.

Those who voted against it said it would facilitate state spying on its critics and intrusion into the privacy of people.

Bill 6221 is a consolidation of 18 related measures authored by, among other House members, Feliciano Belmonte Jr. of Quezon City, Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo of Pampanga, Robert Ace Barbers of Surigao del Norte, Karlo Nograles of Davao City, Vilma Santos-Recto of Batangas, Luis Raymund Villafuerte of Camarines Sur, Rosemarie Arenas of Pangasinan and Helen Tan of Quezon.

Arroyo welcomed the passage of the proposed national ID system.

“The ID system will go a long way toward addressing one of the causes of red tape in our bureaucracy and the costly redundancies that Filipinos have to go through just to prove their identities,” she said.

“Moreover, this proposed law will also help in combating terrorism and other peace and order problems since every Filipino 18 years old and above will register under the system,” Arroyo said.

She expressed hope the Senate passes its own bill on the ID system so both chambers can start working to harmonize the two versions.

Arroyo said the ID card should be made of tamper-proof security material and the capability to store biometric data of the cardholder.

Authors of Bill 5828, on the other hand, include Belmonte, Arroyo, Arthur Yap of Bohol, Jose Christopher Belmonte of Quezon City, Alfredo Benitez of Negros Occidental, Christopher de Venecia of Pangasinan, Joey Salceda of Albay and Ben Evardone of Eastern Samar.

Voting against the measure, opposition Rep. Edcel Lagman of Albay said it was an attempt to amend the Constitution through the backdoor.

“It is actually a subterfuge to allow foreigners to own public utility enterprises without complying with the citizenship requirement imposed by the Constitution, which requires that public utilities must be owned by Filipino citizens or by corporations, partnerships or associations where not less than 60 percent of the capital stock is owned by Filipino citizens,” Lagman said.?“No less than congressman Yap, chairman of the sponsoring committee on economic affairs, has admitted during the deliberations that once Bill 5828 is enacted into law, foreigners will be allowed to own public utilities,” he added.

In fact, the measure deleted the requisite Filipino ownership requirement of public utilities under the Public Service Act, which is identical with Article XII, Section 11 of  the Constitution, Lagman said.

“The bill also deletes from the enumeration of public utilities traditional public utilities such as common carriers and telecommunications companies, which are presently operating with controlling Filipino ownership,” he said.

He lamented that the changes he proposed in the measure to make it comply with the citizenship requirement in the Constitution and ensure that public utilities remain in the hands of Filipinos were all voted down. – With Paolo Romero

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