Drilon says SIM card, social media registration will not curtail free speech

Angelica Y. Yang - Philstar.com
Drilon says SIM card, social media registration will not curtail free speech
This file photo shows logos of social networking site Facebook
File photo

MANILA, Philippines — Senate Minority Leader Franklin Drilon, one of the lawmakers who supported the proposed SIM Card Registration bill that President Rodrigo Duterte vetoed, defended the proposal Wednesday, saying it does not violate the constitution nor does it curtail free speech.

The bill has provision requiring social media providers to compel their users to register their real names and phone numbers when creating an account. 

Under the measure, those who use "fictitious identities" in registering for social media accounts may face jail time of no less than six years or a fine of up to P200,000, or both. 

"The measure is constitutional. The bill does not in any way limit speech. It does not curtail one's ability to post on social media. This is not designed to suppress any particular message," Drilon, who had inserted the provision in the bill, said in a statement on Wednesday. 

Those who provide their real names and phone numbers to social media entities can still post what they want online, the senator added. 

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Drilon claimed there are several safeguards in the bill to ensure privacy, like the confidentiality clause prohibiting disclosure of personal information unless required by a court order, legal process or any enforceable request for information; or if the user gives their written consent. 

The National Privacy Commission earlier told Philstar.com that the provision on social media registration was not indicated in the original House and Senate versions of the bil.

Ivy Grace Villasoto, the officer-in-charge of NPC's Privacy Policy Office, said she thought of the provision as a "rider."

Drilon said the provision was not a rider and said that the bill "does not embrace more than one subject" since the final version's title includes the term, "social media accounts." 

If passed and implemented, the provision would affect women and LGBTQ+ individuals who use online aliases to avoid bullying and harassment, cybersecurity advocate Carlos Nazareno earlier told Philstar.com

He said removing this veil of anonymity will not solve the issue of uncivil behavior online. 

READ:  'Real name' social media registration seen to risk free speech, privacy and identity

Last week, acting presidential spokesperson Martin Andanar said Duterte vetoed the bill after noting that the social media provision was not part of the bill's original version, and needs further study.

Plan to re-file bill

Sen. Sherwin "Win" Gatchalian, a reelectionist, said he wants to re-file the vetoed bill, but plans to separate the legislation for SIM card, and social media registrations. 

"Social media has a wide reach. Does NTC (National Telecommunications Commission) even [regulate] Facebook, Instagram or Tiktok accounts operating in China? There are those complications which we need to address. I'm open to fixing this. But, in theory, it is true that people should register on social media," he said in a statement on Monday. 

Gatchalian highlighted the importance of the SIM card registration bill which promotes accountability and sets rules that will make it harder to commit mobile phone, internet and electronic communication-aided crimes. 

Sen. Leila de Lima, who is also running for another term in the Senate, said it was "unfortunate" that Duterte decided to bar the passage of the SIM card registration act on the grounds of the social media provision, saying the Senate had studied and discussed the proposal.

"If we are truly serious about our fight against criminality and fake news peddlers, and holding offenders responsible for their words and action, we must give this measure a chance to be enacted, in one form or another," she said in a statement Wednesday. 

Meanwhile, Sen. Panfilo "Ping" Lacson, who is running for president in this year's elections, said he agreed with Duterte's decision to veto the bill. 

"Mandating social media registration could be violative of the 'one subject, one title rule' as defined under the 1987 Constitution, not to mention the absence of safeguards or guidelines in the said provision not even covered by the title of the measure itself," he said in a statement.

Measure seen to undermine privacy, free speech

Last month, internet freedom and ICT rights advocacy group Democracy.Net.PH wrote Duterte to ask him to veto the SIM Card Registration bill, saying it has vague and unclear provisions which violate privacy and freedom. 

The petition, sent to Malacañang, was signed by more than 61,000 people and groups. 

"The bill treats as crimes certain actions, such as 'trolling', 'hate speech', and 'spread of digital disinformation or fake news', despite there being no basis to penalize these under existing Philippine penal laws," the petition read.

The final version of the bill did not include social media in its definition of terms.

Cybersecurity policy analyst Grace Mirandilla-Santos told Philstar.com earlier that there is no proof that mandatory SIM card registration can prevent crimes, citing experiences from other developing countries and the European Union. 

She said SIM card registration may put the security, privacy and welfare of citizens at risk, adding the central database of SIM card registrations would be an attractive target for cyber attacks.








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