THE House committee on information and communications technology on Monday, 5 September approved a consolidated measure requiring the registration of all postpaid and prepaid mobile phone subscriber identity module (SIM) cards.

The panel chaired by Navotas Rep. Toby M. Tiangco approved several measures under House Bill (HB) Nos. 14, 59, 116, 506, 794, 841, 951, 1528, 2113, 2478, 2819, 2923, 3299 and 3327 introduced by Speaker Martin G. Romualdez, Representatives Yedda Marie Romualdez (Tingog Party-list), Sandro Marcos, Jude Acidre, Jaime Fresnedi, Roy Loyola, Edvic Yap, Eric Go Yap, Paolo Duterte, Rex Gatchalian, Christian Tell Yap, Roman Romulo, Luis Raymund Villafuerte, Jr., Miguel Luis Villafuerte, Virgilio Lacson, Keith Micah Tan, Tiangco, Rufus Rodriguez and Edwin Olivarez, respectively, to require SIM card registration to lessen scams and criminal activities.

“The mother bill is HB No. 14 filed by Speaker Martin Romualdez, the exact version approved in the last Congress,” Tiangco said who led in approving the consolidated measure. The consolidated bill was approved on third and final reading in the previous 18th Congress. It was Deputy Speaker and Pampanga Rep. Aurelio “Dong” Gonzales who moved for the consolidation of the several measures on SIM card registration.

Albay Rep. Joey Sarte Salceda invoked Rule 10, Section 48 in swiftly approving the consolidated bill that authorizes the committees of the House of Representatives to dispose of priority measures already filed and approved on third reading in the immediately preceding Congress.

Rule 10 provides: “In case of bills or resolutions that are identified as priority measures of the House, which were previously filed in the immediately preceding Congress and have already been approved on third reading, the same may be disposed of as matters already reported upon the approval of the members of the committee present, there being a quorum.”

In his sponsorship speech, Acidre said the unregulated SIM card market has been behind several mobile phone scams, ranging from simple text messages asking users to send cellular loads, to more sophisticated voice phishing methods and marketing spams that are used to gain unauthorized access to sensitive personal information of unsuspecting mobile phone users.

“This humble representation is cognizant of the value of democratizing mobile communication to the public. The increase in connectivity through affordable SIM Cards and mobile phones has made government service delivery more efficient and possible in the far-flung areas of the country. However, we are also conscious of the fact that the accessibility of SIM Cards has encouraged unscrupulous actors to take advantage and use this in the commission of criminal acts,” Acidre, one of the principal authors of HB No. 14, said.

“With this in mind, Speaker Ferdinand Martin Romualdez, Congresswoman Yedda Romualdez, Ferdinand Alexander Marcos and myself are pleased to introduce HB No. 14 or An Act Requiring the Registration of Subscriber Identity Module Cards. This proposed bill shall require ownership registration of Subscriber Identity Module (SIM) cards to eradicate mobile phone-aided criminal activities. Moreover, it shall regulate the sale and distribution of SIM cards in order to promote end-user accountability, prevent the proliferation of mobile phone scams and data breaches, and to assist law enforcement agencies in resolving crimes involving the use of mobile phone units, within the limits imposed by data privacy laws and regulations. It is in this spirit that I ask my fellow members of this chamber to work with me in securing the immediate passage of this bill,” Acidre said.

At present, only SIM cards for postpaid mobile or cellular phone subscriptions are required to be registered.

The bill seeks to require ownership registration of SIM cards to eradicate mobile phone-aided criminal activities.

Speaker Romualdez, Rep. Yedda Romualdez, Marcos and Acidre said the affordability and accessibility of SIM cards “have resulted in the democratization of mobile communications, possibly contributing to a more leveled playing field in terms of employment, education and access to public information.” It said a mobile phone card could be bought for as low as P30 in a sari-sari or convenience store.

They cited a 2020 World Bank report showing that there were 137 cellular phone subscriptions per 100 Filipinos, indicating many Filipinos had more than one subscription or mobile phone.

It noted that cellular phone service providers have blocked millions of text messages and SIM cards due to complaints from subscribers. But while these companies are able render such numbers unusable, scammers could easily replace them because of the availability of prepaid mobile phone subscriptions, it said.

“Furthermore, due to the lack of SIM card registration, it becomes nearly impossible to trace the persons behind the text scams and hold them accountable for fraud, breach of data privacy or other punishable offenses that they committed using an unknown mobile number,” it added.

It stressed that the time “has come to regulate the sale and distribution of SIM cards in order to promote end-user accountability, prevent the proliferation of mobile phone scams and data breaches, and to assist law enforcement agencies in resolving crimes involving the use of mobile phone units.”

Under Bill No. 14, every public telecommunications entity (PTE) or authorized seller shall require an end user to accomplish and sign in triplicate a numbered registration form issued by the PTE.

The form shall include an attestation that the person appearing before the seller is the same person who accomplished the document and that he presented valid identification cards.

The PTE or its authorized seller shall not sell a SIM card if the end user refuses to comply with the registration requirement, which will also apply to foreigners. The form shall indicate the subscriber’s name, date of birth, gender, his address as appearing in a valid ID with photo, and the assigned mobile number and serial number. Any information in the registration document shall be treated as absolutely confidential, unless access to it is granted by the subscriber in writing.

However, such information shall be disclosed upon order by a court or written request by a law enforcement agency in relation to an investigation of an unlawful act involving the use of a mobile number. SIM cards sold or issued before the effectivity of the proposed SIM Card Registration Act will also be required to be registered.

PTEs shall maintain a registry of all subscribers and their assigned SIM cards. They shall submit to the National Telecommunications Commission a list of their authorized sellers/agents.

Bill No. 14 imposes penalties.

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

If the violator is an authorized seller, his 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 prejudiced to the filing of appropriate criminal, civil and administrative charges. (END)



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