(File photo)

MANILA – The House of Representatives on Monday approved on third and final reading a measure requiring the registration of all postpaid and prepaid mobile phone subscriber identity module (SIM) cards.

With 250 affirmative votes, six negative votes, and one abstention, the chamber passed House Bill 14, or the proposed SIM Card Registration Act, which is aimed at preventing the proliferation of mobile phone scams, data breaches, and assist law enforcement agencies in resolving crimes involving the use of mobile phone units.

Under the measure, 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 or she presented valid identification cards.

The form shall indicate the subscriber’s name, date of birth, gender, and address as appearing in a valid ID with a 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.

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.

Senior deputy majority leader Ferdinand Alexander "Sandro" Marcos, one of the authors of the bill, raised the alarm regarding the proliferation of text scams and fraud through the use of short message service (SMS) messaging, ranging from "ridiculous winnings" in raffles to dangerous but fake warnings about problems with bank accounts.

Marcos noted that the trend has evolved into including individuals' full names, which is an "entirely new breach" of privacy in relation to serious leakage of sensitive information intended to keep private.

"These text scams have basically shaken or practically eroded our trust and confidence in electronic commerce and digital transactions. Regulating the purchase or sale of SIM cards, among other things, will put at rest the worries of our people that their information is being arbitrarily and maliciously shared with certain parties without approval," Marcos said.

Other principal authors of the bill include Speaker Martin Romualdez, Tingog Party-list Representatives Yedda Romualdez and Jude Acidre.

For his part, Acidre said requiring the registration of SIM cards establishes the identity of users and makes them accountable for everything that they do with their number.

Acidre also said the bill would deter perpetrators from committing cybercrimes because they can no longer hide behind false identities.

"Each day without the safeguards from the measure makes our people vulnerable to ripoffs that take away their money and cause them anxiety; the onslaught of cybercrimes and fake news that tear away the fabric of our democracy. Jurisprudence is replete with examples clarifying the limits of our rights in cases of illicit acts or when public safety and order are at stake," Acidre said. (PNA)