Sen. Panfilo Lacson, principal author and sponsor of the bill, said the measure is something that he has been pushing for since he first became senator in 2001.
Michael Varcas/File
Congress to ratify national ID bill today
Marvin Sy (The Philippine Star) - May 28, 2018 - 12:00am

MANILA, Philippines — After three decades of languishing in the legislative mill, the national ID system bill is expected to be ratified by Congress today, the final step before it is transmitted to President Duterte for his signature.

Sen. Panfilo Lacson, principal author and sponsor of the bill, said the measure is something that he has been pushing for since he first became senator in 2001.

First proposed during the administration of former president Fidel Ramos, the national ID bill has failed to take off due to lack of support in Congress and a general fear of the system because of privacy issues.

But now, with the backing of Duterte, the bill, which is also dubbed as the Philippine ID system, has been approved by both the Senate and the House of Representatives.

The bill has also gone through the bicameral conference committee where a consolidated version has been prepared and would be presented today in both chambers of Congress for ratification.

“This is a landmark legislation because it is only under the administration of President Duterte that this was approved,” Lacson said in a radio interview.

The fears raised about the present national ID, according to Lacson, have been unfounded considering that the information that would be stored in the ID are basic details of an individual such as name, birthdate, address, gender, photograph and biometrics.

The senator explained that all these information about a person are already kept by various government agencies that issue IDs or other documents.

“I don’t understand the criticism and opposition (to the national ID). Don’t they have driver’s licenses? Don’t they have passports? Don’t they have voter’s IDs? The information needed for the national ID are the same so why should they complain when they have already gone through the same process before?” he said.

The information contained in the national ID would be kept secure, with the Philippine Statistics Authority (PSA) as the repository of the data, according to Lacson, adding there are enough safeguards under the proposed law that would keep the data of the national ID holders secure against unauthorized disclosures.

The only people who should be worried about the national ID, according to the senator, are rebels, terrorists and other criminal elements who thrive on anonymity.

“Those with aliases would now have a difficult time maintaining their aliases. I suppose this is the fear of the leftists because there are NPA (New People’s Army), ASG (Abu Sayyaf group), who are fighting the government, so now, with a national ID system, they would be easily identified,” Lacson said.

The bill calls for the allocation of an initial P25 billion for the PSA to implement the law.

Lacson, however, said the PSA has aired its concern that P25 billion might not be enough if all of the safeguards would be included in the law; thus, the actual budget needed could run up to P40 billion.

He added that the implementation could also take some time, with the PSA saying that this could take five years to complete.

16.3 million Filipinos to benefit

More than the taxpayers,  proponents said the poorest of the poor reaching about 16.3 million out of the total 104 million Filipinos today stand to benefit from the establishment of the national ID system or the Philippine Identification System (PhilSys).

“The PhilSys is particularly important for vulnerable sectors of our population, like those who are marginalized and living in poverty and those living in remote areas,” Camiguin Rep. Xavier Jesus Romualdo, one of the principal authors of the bill, said.

“Once they have the means to prove their identity, people will be empowered to exercise their rights and privileges and access basic services,” the chairman of the House committee on government reorganization added.

A study undertaken by the Identification for Development initiative of the World Bank had shown that over 16.3 million Filipinos “do not have proof of identity and are hindered from availing themselves of government and financial services.”

Romualdo said PhilSys would enable “more Filipinos to access vital services, such as education, social protection, health care, banking and finance.”

Another co-author of the bill, former journalist and incumbent Laguna Rep. Sol Aragones, described as a “historical milestone” the passing of the measure after more than 20 years since it was first proposed in Congress.

“We now have an opportunity to create a significant impact and everlasting effect on the lives of our people with something that can fit in our pocket, kasya sa bulsa, in the form of an ID,” the legislator said.

“This ‘one for all, all for one’ ID seeks to synchronize and harmonize all existing government-initiated identification cards, into a unified, comprehensive and efficient system,” she added.

The PhilSys ID, according to Aragones, will be issued to all citizens and resident aliens to provide them with a valid proof of identity and a means to simplify public and private transactions.

“We will no longer need to present multiple IDs to transact with government and private establishments that require individuals to present two or more government-issued IDs,” Aragones assured.

This landmark legislation is expected to promote seamless delivery of service; improve the efficiency, transparency and targeted delivery of public and social services; enhance administrative governance; reduce corruption and curtail bureaucratic red tape; avert fraudulent transactions and misrepresentations, strengthen financial inclusion and promote ease of doing business. – With Delon Porcalla

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