Aug. 14, 2015
On behalf of TXTPower.org Inc., the Computer Professionals Union (CPU), the Advocates of Science and Technology for the People (AGHAM) and our communities, we are writing to strongly urge you to help slay this Frankenstein-like monster called “mandatory SIM card registration”. It is back from the dead, threatening our people and their rights.
The mandatory SIM card registration peddlers are trying to sell you an old, costly and discredited idea. They say it is needed to fight crime. But a closer look would reveal that the pending measure in the Senate and the counterpart House bill suffer from the following fatal flaws:
1. It is practically impossible to implement: We have at least 100 million SIM cards in circulation, with millions more roaming SIM cards used by OFWs. These SIM cards are used not just for mobile phones, but also for tablets, payphones, landlines, modems, routers, and other devices. We also have hundreds of thousands of tourists and visitors going into the country bringing in roaming SIM cards. Exactly how would all these SIM cards be registered? Is this even possible? Would it disrupt government services and businesses – for how long?
2. It is costly: The tedious registration process is expected to be costly, and there would be separate costs for setting up, maintaining and safekeeping the database. Who will pay for these costs? The telcos? The taxpayers? Consumers? Exactly how much? Would this involve a one-time payment or annual payments? Who would receive these payments and how?
3. It violates constitutional rights: SIM cards are now the keys not just to mobile phone services, but to a whole range of online transactions. They bear our identity information, contacts and unlocks many other services. The Constitution bans any and all unreasonable and arbitrary searches and seizures; court-issued warrants are required. The proposed system is also prone to abuse by those who have control of or access to the proposed database – arguably, the first step towards surveillance. Further, it threatens the privacy rights of journalists, activists, businesses, and politicians.
4. It is fraud-prone, not fraud-proof and will spawn new crimes: When registration of SIM cards is implemented, we have to brace ourselves for a new crime wave: the theft of SIM cards, illegal re-sale of stolen SIM cards, identity theft to fraudulently register SIM cards and others. Simply because we cannot expect criminals, scammers and syndicates to register SIM cards under their own names. The “solution” ironically becomes a new, perhaps lucrative, opportunity for criminals.
5. It is doomed to fail: This we have to stress: just one rogue SIM card – stolen, fraudulently-registered or unregistered – would render this proposed system worthless. Would the President, Cabinet Members, Lawmakers, Judges, Law Enforcement and Intelligence Agents, Diplomats and their Families be exempt from registration? What more if batches of SIM cards go unregistered?
6. It is not future-proof: SIM cards are not forever. They get lost, damaged or replaced. What are the remedies in the proposed system for these instances? Would records be updated automatically? We may soon see a future without SIM cards. In fact, phone manufacturers are now proposing the phaseout of physical SIM cards. If that happens, what happens to this proposed system? It would be total waste of effort, time and resources that should have instead gone to actually fighting crime.
We thus strongly urge you to vote against this measure, and bring back this Frankenstein to its grave.
There are other, effective ways to empower law enforcers in curbing crime. Please also focus on thwarting other crimes and offenses like violations of consumer rights, sale of substandard services, harmful monopoly/oligopoly activities, and the like.
Tonyo Cruz, Chief Executive Officer, TXTPower.org Inc.
Ricardo Bahague, National Coordinator, Computer Professionals’ Union
Dr. Giovanni Tapang, National Chair, AGHAM
About our organizations:
- TXTPower promotes the rights of Filipinos as consumers, netizens and citizens, with a focus on the interests of mobile phone and internet users.
- CPU is a non-stock, not-for-profit development NGO focused in ICT to benefit the Filipino people through activist ICT principles and networks of ICT professionals, students and advocates.
- AGHAM is an organization of patriotic scientists, technologists and advocates who promote science and technology that serve the interests of the Filipino people, especially the poor.