A National ID Raising Against the Legislative Clock

The Philippines is one of only nine (9) countries in the world without a single national identification (ID) system.

Congress is now is in its logrolling session with only three session days before it goes into its Lenten break. One bill that is raising against time and hoping not to go to the bicameral level is the National Identification System Bill.

Advocates of the measure are hoping that with bipartisan support, the measure can hurdle the legislative maze after three decades of congressional push. Senate Bill No. 1738, entitled "An Act Establishing the Philippine Identification System," as embodied in Committee Report No. 277 has been authored by Sen. Panfilo Lacson several Congresses ago. While House Bill No. 4167 or “An Act Creating the National Identification System of the Philippines under Committee Report No. 360, as substituted by House Bill No. 6221 was authored by Rep. Sol Aragones (3rd District, Laguna). Lacson’s measure is foundational card while Aragon’s is functional.

Functional IDs would allow more Filipinos to avail of formal financial services, as it simplifies identity verification once every resident gets hold of a government-issued ID without the need to line up and present multiple documents.

It will be recalled that In 1996, then President Fidel Ramos issued Administrative Order No. 308 adopting a National Computerized Identification System. The order was declared unconstitutional by the Supreme Court on the ground that legislative approval is required for the scheme. Then President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo issued Executive Order No. 420 requiring all government agencies and government-owned and -controlled corporations to harmonize their ID systems.

The Philippines is one of only nine (9) countries in the world without a single national identification (ID) system. Filipinos have so many identification cards (IDs) that on the average s/he carries around four (4) IDs. For ID verification, only the following forms of government-issued IDs are accepted: Passport, Driver's License, Social Security System (SSS ID), Government Service Insurance System (GSIS ID), Professional Regulation Commission (PRC ID), Postal ID, Voter's ID and National Bureau of Investigation (NBI) clearance. All in all, the list runs up to 33 identification cards issued by various government agencies.

Security, savings and service issues have been raised in the debate. Filipinos will be given a Common Reference Number (CRN) containing essential information such as full name, address, date and place of birth, sex, civil status, signature, CRN and date of card issuance, along with a recent photo. The CRN/ID can be used by a citizen when he or she transacts business in government agencies.

Under the Senate bill, PhilSys will have three key components: the PhilSys Number or PSN, the PhilID, and the PhilSys Registry. Sen. Lacson said that with a foundational ID, which shall serve as a legal proof of identity for multiple purposes, possibilities for more functions without the need for limitless data will be opened.

The House of Representatives on the other hand, voting 142-7, approved on third and final reading last September 2017, House Bill 6221. The measure seeks to establish a single, unified and streamlined national identification system in the country.

The bill, otherwise known as the “Filipino Identification System” calls for the establishment of a National Identification Database System, to be known as the National Identification System or “FilSys”. The National ID System shall provide a valid proof of identity and an efficient official identity verification of all citizens of the Republic of the Philippines. FilSys shall gradually synchronize and consolidate all existing government-initiated identification systems into one integrated identification system.

Under the bill, every Filipino, upon reaching the age of 18 and whether residing in the Philippines or abroad, is mandated to register personal data as required by the FilSys, and upon application, shall be issued a non-transferrable FilID with a CRN that shall be valid for life.

Lacson’s sponsorship happened last 12 March. He pointed out that: “in Thailand, the national ID number helps the government achieve universal health coverage. In Pakistan, a national ID system using biometric technology ensures that women receive cash transfers directly, empowering them to decide how their money should be spent. In India, the unique ID number--known as Aadhaar--helps ensure that benefits and subsidies reach only the intended beneficiaries. The measure was passed on 2nd reading last 14 March 2018 in the Senate.

The Department of Budget and Management is pushing for the immediate passage of the measure considering it is only now that the versions are in advanced stages already. The unified system would promote seamless delivery of service, improve efficiency and transparency and delivery of public and social services, and enhance administrative governance. “The national ID is expected to reduce corruption, curtail bureaucratic red tape, avert fraudulent transactions and misrepresentations, strengthen financial inclusion and promote ease of doing business.”

DBM Secretary Benjamin Diokno said the government earmarked P2 billion for the establishment of the PhilSys under the 2018 budget of its key implementor, the Philippine Statistics Authority (PSA). The DBM said data to be collected for the ID would be limited to demographic information such as name, gender, date and place of birth, and address. Other information such as mobile number and e-mail address are optional. It will also feature biometrics information, including facial image, fingerprints, iris scan and other identifiable features of an individual.

The Unified National Identification System Act was in the Common Legislative Agenda (CLA) approved by LEDAC Full Council last August 29, 2017. The Duterte Administration has been quoted as saying they will implement a National ID System even if Congress is unable to pass the measure.

About the Author
Malou Tiqiua is the Founder/General Manager of PUBLiCUS Asia Inc. A noted political management expert in the Philippines and Asia, she brings over 20 years of professional experience in public, private and the academe combined. Author of the comprehensive book on electoral campaigns in the Philippines, "Campaign Politics", Malou is a graduate of the University of the Philippines with a Political Science degree and a Master of Public Administration. She completed her second master's degree (MA in Political Management) from the Graduate School of Political Management, George Washington University.
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