By Tonyo Cruz
It looks like the Duterte administration would soon enact into law what could be the “most promising” National IDs and SIM cards in the whole world, if we are to believe their proponents.
Supporters of both projects cannot stop themselves from predicting eradication of crimes, better public services and other wonders once Duterte signs the bills into law.
Many of my friends actually are so impressed by the claims, and they cite many progressive countries that have them as proof of effectiveness and importance.
But despite all the O Shopping-type or pyramid marketing sort of blitz, the National ID is actually no more than a super-expensive internal passport system.
At a time when “sorry, walang pera” is government’s standard response to citizens’ demands that the state put more taxpayer money in health, education, housing, OFW assistance, and other — we are now set to be surprised that the heavens have opened to give hundreds of billions of pesos for the National ID.
Hundreds of billions are needed to set up, to maintain, and to keep safe the National ID databases, as well as the databases that would be tied to them. Yes, hundreds of billions, and the spending won’t stop because it will be a continuing, endless project. Who among the administration’s business friends would get the generous contracts for its implementation?
Exactly how the National ID would curb crime, the supporters don’t tell us. Because they can’t. We are just being told to believe, although nothing of that sort has been achieved in countries that have National IDs. Countries with no National ID are no less safe — as people from Australia, Canada, the UK and the US would tell us. They are not convinced an expensive National ID is needed to fight crime, and they are more convinced it would lead to more and new crimes.
Supporters of both the National ID and SIM registration (naively) believe and preach that criminals, scammers and terrorists would use their own National IDs and registered SIM cards for the purpose of committing crimes. They won’t. They would most probably create new problems like identity theft from lost or misplaced National IDs or from possible illegal access into the cross-linked databases.
Would anyone also be exempt from National IDs and SIM registration? Would the president, official spies, high government officials, Members of Congress, and others be exempt? Why? Aren’t they capable of committing crimes too?
Any exemption would be fatal to both projects. A single or a handful of rogue National IDs and registered SIM cards would make both projects ineffective against crime — how would they find the culprits if many of the usual suspects are to be exempted or have used false information and other people’s identities?
Supporters of the National ID system predict that we would have a better life because from more than a dozen, we would need only one ID. But would there be sizable and adequate increases in budgets for public hospitals once we get National IDs? Would National IDs automatically mean we would have universal health care? Same goes for other services from housing to education. Would the long lines and red tape just magically disappear?
Would the absence or loss of a National ID mean a citizen would be legally deprived of services and other benefits as a citizen? How would lost National IDs be replaced? How quickly and securely would this be done? I hope the supporters don’t lose their National IDs and have their SIM cards cloned or stolen by criminals who tirelessly look for ways to go around the system, and create new crimes. I hope they don’t fall prey to the future modus operandi of syndicates who would expectedly fabricate National IDs and trade registered but stolen/lost SIM cards.
Exactly how the government intends to make sure no foreigner brings in an unregistered prepaid SIM card from other countries that are roaming-ready, the proponents don’t tell us. In fact, we also have more than 100-million SIM cards in use right now — on smartphones, tablets, modems, home phone sets, CCTV cameras capable of streaming, etc. Exactly how fast and for how long the registration would be done, we hear no word about it.
What if you left your National ID at home, or misplaced it? Would you be arrested when cops or soldiers accost you and you don’t have it? Would we be a nation that implements not only airport style bag inspections, but also National ID checks anytime and anywhere death squads and corrupt lawmen choose to do so?
And then we have the databases that would be crosslinked using the unique National ID number. Would any public office or officer have access to ALL our data, however irrelevant to such office or officer — and on whose authority grants them such access? What would be the protections for unauthorized access and use of such data? Alas, there would be more new crimes.
I understand the desperation of friends to see steps towards fighting crime, and promoting better services. But I’m sad to say that both the National ID and SIM registration can only make us appear to feel good. And when we factor in the tyranny and corruption of the administration, and the questionable characters on top of our personal and private data — I wonder how long the good feeling would last.
Meanwhile, some of my other friends would be fighting this in the courts and the Parliament of the Streets. It can still be stopped. The UK once started it, and later abandoned it. They have other more important things to mind than to impose an internal passport system on their own people.