Duterte vetoes SIM registration bill

By Ruth Abbey Gita-Carlos

April 15, 2022, 2:15 pm

MANILA – President Rodrigo Duterte has vetoed the proposed Subscriber Identity Module (SIM) Card Registration Act, Malacañang said on Friday.

The provision ordering the mandatory registration of social media accounts prompted Duterte to veto the measure, acting Presidential Spokesperson, Communication Secretary Martin Andanar, said in a press statement.

“The President has decided to veto the consolidated Senate Bill No. 2395/House Bill No. 5793, which seeks to mandate the registration of all SIM cards and social media accounts, with the purpose of deterring electronic communication-aided crimes,” he said.

While Duterte lauded the Congress’ efforts in finding ways to address the increasing incidence of cybercrimes and offenses related to information and communications technology (ICT), he was “constrained to disagree with the inclusion of social media in the measure, without providing proper guidelines and definitions,” Andanar said.

The President, he said, expressed concern that the contentious provision “may give rise to a situation of dangerous state intrusion and surveillance threatening many constitutionally protected rights.”

“It is incumbent upon the Office of the President to ensure that any statute is consistent with the demands of the Constitution, such as those which guarantee individual privacy and free speech,” Andanar said.

Duterte sought a “more thorough” review of the proposal to mandate social media registration, he added.

“Prior versions only mandated the registration of SIM cards. The President similarly found that certain aspects of state intrusion, or the regulation thereof, have not been duly defined, discussed, or threshed out in the enrolled bill, with regard to social media registration,” Andanar said. “The President noted that the inclusion of social media providers in the registration requirement was not part of the original version of the bill and needs a more thorough study.”

He expressed hope that despite Duterte’s decision to veto the SIM Card Registration bill, lawmakers would continue crafting measures that would create a “safe and secure online environment” for the Filipino people.

“This notwithstanding, we ask Congress not to lose heart in passing effective and strengthened measures that offer our citizens a safe and secure online environment, provided that the same would stand judicial scrutiny,” Andanar said.

In February, the Senate and the House of Representatives ratified the bicameral conference committee report on contrasting provisions of the proposed SIM Card Registration Act.

Under the measure, Public Telecommunications Entities (PTEs) must require the registration of SIM cards for collection in a centralized database as a pre-requisite to the sale and activation of SIM cards.

The bill has a provision that states, “All social media account providers shall require (the) real name and phone number (of a user) upon creation of account.”

It penalizes those who sign up for social media accounts using fictitious identities with a fine of PHP200,000 and a jail term of up to six years or both.

Direct sellers will require the end-user to present their valid identification with a photo along with an accomplished control-numbered registration form provided by the respective PTE.

A person who wants to purchase a SIM card but cannot personally register for a valid reason may opt to authorize another person to buy, given that there is a Special Power of Attorney and proper identification of the principal buyer and representative. (PNA)