Romualdez refiles SIM card registration bill at House

Angelica Y. Yang - Philstar.com
Romualdez refiles SIM card registration bill at House
Undated file photo shows House Majority Leader Martin Romualdez.
The STAR / Boy Santos

MANILA, Philippines — Rep. Martin Romualdez (Leyte), President Ferdinand Marcos Jr.'s cousin and who is seen as the likely next speaker of the House, has filed a bill seeking to require the registration of Subscriber Identity Module cards to help prevent crimes done through mobile phones. 

The bill, which raised privacy concerns during the 18th Congress, also lists Rep. Ferdinand Alexander Marcos (Ilocos Norte), and Reps. Yedda Marie Romualdez and Jude Acidre (Tingog party-list) as authors.

If passed into law, House Bill No. 14 will compel anyone in the Philippines who intends to buy prepaid and postpaid SIM cards to register their personal information with public telecommunications entities (PTEs) or with authorized SIM card sellers.

Some of the required information include one's name, gender, date of birth and address — and these will be kept in a registry maintained by PTEs. 

Any data in the registration document will be treated as "absolutely confidential", unless the subscriber says otherwise in writing. The data can also be accessed, however, through a court order or a written request from a law enforcement agency. 

Penalties for data breaches range from P5,000 to P1 million for erring PTEs and authorized sellers. If the offender is from an implementing agency of the government, they will be dismissed from service and fined. 


In its explanatory note, HB No. 14 said that SIM cards are now more affordable, which has democratized mobile communications and has leveled the playing field somewhat in employment, education and access to information.

But lawmakers also warned of the rise of mobile phone scams, which range from simple text messages asking for load to more sophisticated methods and marketing spams used to gain access to sensitive personal information.

"Due to the lack of SIM card registration, it becomes nearly impossible to trace the persons behind the text scams and hold them accountable for fraud, breach of data privacy or other punishable offenses that they committed using an unknown mobile number," the bill's authors said.

They said that registration will promote "end-user accountability, prevent the proliferation of mobile phone scams and data breaches, and to assist law enforcement agencies in resolving crimes involving the use of mobile phone units."

Vetoed by Duterte

The 18th Congress passed the SIM card registration bill but then-President Rodrigo Duterte vetoed the measure over concerns that a provision also requiring social media registration did not have "proper guidelines and definitions thereto."

The bill raised concerns among cybersecurity and privacy experts. Cybersecurity policy analyst Mary Grace Mirandilla-Santos earlier told Philstar.com that the bill might do more harm than good as she pointed out that there is no evidence that SIM card registration will prevent crimes. 

Gobal non-profit Privacy International found that mandatory SIM card registration policies adopted by several countries including Canada, Czech Republic, the Netherlands and Ireland were "ineffective and inefficient."

Mexico also had a compulsory SIM card registration policy in 2009, but scrapped it three years later after it was discovered to be "ineffective."

Last week, likely Sen. Juan Miguel "Migz" Zubiri and Sen. Grace Poe announced that they refiled separate versions of the bill

Poe said she is open to speaking with her colleagues about the registration of social media accounts, while Zubiri said that the bill he filed did not have the social media registration provision. 

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