NBI registers SIM using monkey pic

Cecille Suerte Felipe, Marc Jayson Cayabyab - The Philippine Star
NBI registers SIM using monkey pic
Image shows a screenshot of the sample identification card that the NBI used to test the registration of SIM cards, presented
STAR / File

MANILA, Philippines — A photo of a smiling monkey passed through undetected in the SIM card registration site of telecommunications companies, according to the National Bureau of Investigation (NBI).

During the Senate public services committee hearing into the proliferation of text scams in the country on Tuesday, NBI cybercrime chief Jeremy Lotoc showed a video of his agents registering a fake PhilHealth ID bearing the picture of a monkey in the registration site of Globe Telecom Inc.

Sen. Grace Poe said it is an “insult” to the law’s implementation.

“All of us here are playing catch-up with technology. We have to keep updating because it is frustrating, and it is adding insult to injury that a smiling monkey can register a SIM card,” she lamented.

“It’s looking like what we have now is not really sufficient. We will have to go back to the drawing board,” she noted.

This could have been prevented if telcos did not oppose including facial recognition technology in the SIM Registration Act’s implementing rules and regulations, Poe added.

Ariel Tubayan, head of Globe’s Policy Division, Corporate and Legal Services Group, reacted to the NBI’s video, admitting lapses but denying that telcos were against the idea of using facial recognition technology.

The government should have fully implemented the national ID system for telcos to gain access to the biometrics database to verify registrants’ IDs, he noted.

But Sen. Joel Villanueva retorted, “You think your system is working? If... you see this application form of that monkey smiling at you, what the heck are you doing?”

Tubayan said their system requires selfie pictures from registrants to verify their ID. Those who submit fake IDs will be held liable.


Senate President Juan Miguel Zubiri and Sen. Sherwin Gatchalian want stiffer penalties against people selling registered SIM cards and stricter policies for money transfer services that syndicates use.

“I asked the telecom companies why there are still too many text scams. Today, I got a text message that read ‘Good news…you can get free tickets,’” Zubiri said on Sept. 4.

“I want to ask them about this. They are blaming Viber, Facebook Messenger, What’s App and other over-the-top services,” he added.

Telco executives told senators that scammers can still use OTP messaging services even with deactivated SIM cards as long as they have registered with digital messaging applications prior to the deadline.

Zubiri noted they will invite GCash, PayMaya and money transfer service representatives as they should be strict with people using their services.

As for the monkey photo that passed through the SIM card registration, Gatchalian said it was disrespectful.

“There should be some form of post-validation if it’s not automatic... We cannot allow horses, monkeys and gorillas to be registered,” he stressed.

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