Makabayan airs concerns over national ID system contractor

By Ellson Quismorio 

The Makabayan Bloc has reiterated its opposition to the national identification (ID) card system after noting the winning contractor Gemalto NV's involvement with the defective voter’s registration verification machines (VRVMs) used in the midterm elections last May.

 Bayan Muna partylist Rep. Carlos Isagani Zarate  (Bayan Muna Partylist / FACEBOOK / MANILA BULLETIN) Bayan Muna partylist Rep. Carlos Isagani Zarate
(Bayan Muna Partylist / FACEBOOK / MANILA BULLETIN)

"This is another danger to the national ID system since the one that would act as its administrator, Gemalto NV, was already involved in the faulty VRVM just this last elections," House Deputy Minority Leader and Bayan Muna Party-List Rep. Carlos Isagani Zarate said in a statement Tuesday.

Bayan Muna belongs to the militant Makabayan, which is a part of the 26-strong Minority Bloc that is led by Manila 6th district Rep. Benny Abante.

Officially known as the Philippine Identification System ID (PhilSys ID), the national ID card system will undergo pilot testing this coming September to December for a substantial number of Filipinos nationwide, Malacañang earlier said.

Aside from its supposed VRVM gaffe, Gemalto NV also presents risks in the communications and data security front, Zarate said.

"We should be wary, too, on the revelation of whistleblower Edward Snowden, which alleged that Gemalto was being used by the National Security Agency (NSA) and the British' Government Communications Headquarters (GCHQ) to steal SIM authentication keys, then secretly monitor mobile communications," noted the lawyer-solon.

"The said supposed program, codenamed 'DAPINO GAMMA,' Snowden also claimed, has the ability to manipulate records to conceal their own activity and...access to authentication servers in decrypting voice calls and text messages," added the Deputy Minority leader.

Zarate also said that last year, the Estonian police sought to recover 152 million euros ($178 million) in a lawsuit against Gemalto following a recall in 2017 when security flaws were allegedly found in citizen ID cards produced by the firm.

"The danger of identity theft and unwarranted surveillance of innocent citizens is very clear here," said the progressive solon.

Zarate said even information technology experts like Rafael Gutierrez, a Philippine representative in U.S. web security and cloud-based solutions, have also expressed doubts on the capability of Gemalto NV.

"So it is really quite puzzling why the Philippine Statistics Authority (PSA) hired Nextix Inc., a subsidiary of Gemalto NV," he said.

"In hindsight though the PSA is also being run by another foreign-linked company, the US-based Unisys," said the Davao-based solon.

"We should investigate this before the data and privacy of more than 110 million Filipinos are put into peril. The implementation of the national ID system should be put on hold until this is settled. The national ID system is dangerous enough as it is, at the very least the companies to administer it should at least be above reproach," Zarate said.