An advocacy group championing the interests of ordinary consumers is urging members of the 19th Congress to file and pass again the bill requiring SIM registration that had been vetoed by former President Rodrigo Duterte.
Tim Abejo, co-convenor of CitizenWatch Philippines cited the bills immense power to protect Filipinos from scams and other internet-related crimes.
“We need this law because of the proliferation of scammers, fraudsters, trolls and disinformation agents who are emboldened by anonymity to do their dark deeds,” said Abejo.
The SIM Card Registration Act requires telecommunication companies to register SIM cards at the point of sale and before activation. Existing and active subscribers must register their SIMS within 180 days from the law’s effectivity, with a possible extension of 120 days.
When this deadline passes, telcos are authorized to deactivate unregistered SIMs.
“Our lawmakers need to step in and correct this unfettered anonymity,” Abejo said. “Too many Filipinos are falling prey to these fraudsters and online goons. Technology should make our lives better, not worse.”
According to Abejo, the ratified version of the SIM Card Registration Law will protect consumers from internet or electronic communication-aided crimes like terrorism, text scams, unsolicited, indecent or obscene messages, bank fraud, libel, anonymous online defamation, trolling, and the spread of digital disinformation or fake news.
“Requiring the registration of SIM cards establishes the identity of users and makes them accountable for everything that they do with their number,” Abejo said. “That, then, deters perpetrators from committing cybercrimes because they can no longer hide behind false identities.”
For its part, telco giant Globe said implementation of the law, when it finally takes effect, is key.
In an earlier statement, Globe president Ernest Cu expressed full support of the SIM Card Registration Act but pointed out how easily fake IDs are obtained. in the country. He emphasized the need for the speedy rollout of the National ID system and called on the government to hasten the implementation of APIs into the national ID system that allows checks once registration has been implemented.
“We lack reliable IT systems. We don’t want anyone to think that the silver bullet of registration will solve all fraud, terrorism, and crime-related identification,” Cu said.
Abejo further lamented on the marked increase in text scams where unsuspecting users are fooled into divulging sensitive personal information to those who use these to drain money from victim’s accounts
“The fake identities of cybercriminals and trolls allow them to operate wantonly with no fear of being apprehended. Consumers are easy targets with their sophisticated modus-operandi,” Abejo said.
“When SIM cards – which are linked to social media accounts – are registered, those victimizing online shoppers and those fueling confusion, hate and disinformation will know that they can be traced and prosecuted.”
“CitizenWatch Philippines calls on legislators to pass a new version of the SIM Card Registration Act and for the President to certify this as urgent. Congress must act with urgency on this important policy measure to protect our citizens from the relentless attack of cybercriminals,” said Abejo.