Scam attempt prompts Zubiri to renew push for SIM card registration


MANILA, Philippines — Senate President Juan Miguel "Migz" Zubiri is renewing his push for legislation that will require the registration of SIM cards after he and other senators received scam text messages.

A 23-year-old man and a 46-year-old man have been arrested in connection with the scam try, where they posed as Siquijor Gov. Jake Vincent Villa and Board Member Abner Lomongo and tried to get up to P60,000 from Zubiri. The two were arrested in an entrapment operation.

"As a senator, what happened to me is one of the reasons why I am continuing to push for SIM card registration," Zubiri said Wednesday in Filipino in a news conference. "If we have SIM card registration using government-issued IDs and licenses, definitely we would be able to identify who these scammers are."

He said other senators, including Sen. Nancy Binay and former Senate President Vicente "Tito" Sotto III, have also been hit by these scam attempts.

Cybersecurity policy analysts have warned that SIM card registration might not prevent crime and also raises privacy issues.

Findings from global non-profit Privacy International show 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Mexico also had a compulsory SIM card registration policy in 2009, but repealed it three years later after it was discovered to be "ineffective."

"SIM registration has the potential to put the security, privacy, and welfare of citizens at risk. Experiences from other developing countries and the European Union show that SIM card registration may pose more risks than benefits to citizens," analyst Mary Grace Mirandilla-Santos — who spoke on behalf of Secure Connections, a cybersecurity initiative of The Asia Foundation — told Philstar.com in February.

Zubiri forecasts that the Senate could pass the SIM card registration bill anew by the end of the year, assuring that the provisions which were vetoed by former President Rodrigo Duterte have already been addressed.

Duterte rejected the SIM card registration bill due to a provision that would have required social media accounts to be registered as well. — Xave Gregorio

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