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Cell phone users who don’t register SIM risk deactivation

Ghio Ong - The Philippine Star
Cell phone users who donât register SIM risk deactivation
Subscriber identity module (SIM) cards.
The STAR / File

MANILA, Philippines — Mobile phone users who fail to register their subscriber identity module (SIM) risk deactivation from their respective telecoms providers once President Marcos signs the SIM Registration Bill into law.

Navotas City Rep. Toby Tiangco, who chairs the House committee on information and communications technology, emphasized this in an interview with “The Chiefs” on Cignal TV’s One News Wednesday night.

“If you fail to register it within 180 days (of the enactment of the law), your SIM will be deactivated by the telco. That’s what the law states,” Tiangco said.

Shortly before the interview, both the Senate and the House of Representatives ratified the bicameral conference committee report on the bill making the registration of all users of SIMs in telecommunications devices mandatory.

What was ratified by both houses of Congress was the consolidated version of the disagreeing provisions of Senate Bill No. 1310 and House Bill No. 14, which has dropped the word “card” from the title to cover all variations of the SIM.

RELATED: Telcos throw support behind SIM card registration amid rights and privacy concerns

Tiangco said telcos would be mandated to provide a platform online in which cellphone users should input their SIM information and other credentials – particularly the name, birthday and address – as they appear in valid government-issued identification cards or IDs.

“Data provided in registration will not be transmitted to the government. That will be withheld by the telco,” he said.

Telecommunications firms will only be constrained to release SIM registration data if a court order is issued to that effect, he added.

As a guarantee under the measure, telcos will be held liable if they were proven to leak any information from SIM registration negligently or intentionally, with fines ranging from P500,000 to P4 million.

Legislators pushing for stricter SIM registration and regulation – including Sen. Grace Poe who headed the Senate contingent to the bicameral panel – hope their efforts will bear fruit this time in light of rampant spam text messages that have proliferated, which even bore the private details or information of mobile phone users, including their names.

By requiring ownership and registration of SIMs, they expect to eradicate mobile phone-aided criminal activities.

At present, only SIM cards for postpaid mobile or cellular phone subscriptions are required to be registered, so prepaid SIM users involved in any illicit activity using their mobile devices easily escape accountability.

The proposed law mandates Filipinos to register their SIM cards before their use and activation by the telcos.

Those who already own a prepaid SIM card are given 180 days within which to register with their telecoms providers which, in turn, are given 60 days to set up registration facilities in remote areas from the effectivity of the law.

Speaker Martin Romualdez, who presided over the House plenary session, said the “SIM Registration Act” that he authored as HB 14 may become the first law to be signed and enacted by the President.

HB 14, whose co-authors include Romualdez’s wife Yedda of party-list Tingog, her colleague Rep. Jude Acidre and Rep. Sandro Marcos of Ilocos Norte, is the first legislative measure that successfully passed approval of the bicam of the 19th Congress.

“This Act will not only help promote responsibility in the end users of SIMs for electronic devices but also provide our law enforcers the necessary tools to resolve crimes involving telecommunication devices,” Romualdez said.

Tiangco told “The Chiefs” that while the measure aims to identify cellphone users who commit crimes, it “could not be 100-percent effective.” Still, it is the “first step” to deter crimes aided by the use of SIMs, he said.

He added that individuals like intelligence agents, journalists and whistleblowers – who may deem the cover of anonymity in their use of communications tools as integral in the performance of their duties – would not be exempted from the measure once it becomes a law.

Fines

Under HB 14, every public telecommunications entity (PTE) shall maintain a registry of all subscribers and their assigned SIMs. They shall also submit to the National Telecommunications Commission a list of their authorized sellers/agents.

If an offense is committed by a PTE, the president and other responsible officers of the telco shall be held liable and fined up to P300,000 on the first offense; up to P500,000 on the second offense, and up to P1 million on the third and any succeeding violation.

If the violator is an authorized seller, his/her operation shall be suspended and a fine of P5,000 to P50,000 shall be imposed.

If the offender is an officer or employee of an implementing agency, he shall be dismissed from the service and fined, without prejudice to the filing of appropriate criminal, civil and administrative charges.

SIM

SIM CARD REGISTRATION

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