Lawmakers hail new SIM Cards law as victory vs. text scammers

By Wilnard Bacelonia

October 10, 2022, 5:47 pm

<p><em>(PNA file photo)</em></p>

(PNA file photo)

MANILA – Lawmakers on Monday commended President Ferdinand Marcos Jr. for signing into law the Republic Act 11934 or the subscriber identity module (SIM) Card Registration Act, calling it a victory against rampant text scams.

“The passage of the SIM (Card) Registration Act into law is not just this administration’s victory. It is a victory against text scammers who continue to take advantage of our fellow Filipinos,” Senate Majority Leader Joel Villanueva said in a statement.

Villanueva expressed gratitude to President for signing the new law, the first in the 19th Congress and under the Marcos administration. He also thanked his colleagues and House of Representatives members for urgently approving the measure.

“As author and co-sponsor, we are truly thankful that we were able to pass this through political will and the shared desire to serve our countrymen," Villanueva said.

He said the new law is a testament to the commitment of both the executive and legislative branches of the government in bringing genuine reforms by passing important legislation despite diverse political views.

Senator Grace Poe, sponsor of the measure in the Senate, said the new law is a first step to fend off text scammers while guaranteeing utmost respect to fundamental human rights.

"The law has instituted sufficient safeguards that accord primacy to consumers' right to privacy to ensure a safe and secure mobile use in the country," Poe said.

Any information obtained in SIM registration, she said, will be treated with absolute confidentiality except in compliance with any law or court order authorizing the disclosure of personal information upon finding of probable cause.

Some senators claimed that their names were used in text scams to ask for money or donations.

Senator Christopher Lawrence Go was one of them, saying text scams should stop after this measure was finally passed into law.

"So, ngayon kailangan na pong magrehistro ng mga SIM owners. Maaari na pong ma-identify kung sinong gumagamit dito. Gamitin man nila sa kalokohan o anumang kriminalidad, maaari na silang ma-identify at mahuli (So, now SIM owners should be registered. We can now identify the users. If they use it in illegally or in whatever criminality, they can be identified and arrested)," Go said in an interview.

Senator Jinggoy Estrada emphasized the timeliness of the law as the Covid-19 pandemic drives the rapid digital adoption of the Philippines.

"It’s imperative to have laws that are more attuned to the times and the needs of society – not only in the ways Filipinos communicate, work, engage in e-commerce, access information, etc.," Estrada said in a statement.

"Hindi man ito maging ganap na solusyon, naniniwala tayo na malaking dagok ito para sa mga kriminal na sinasamantala ang anonymity sa paggamit ng mga (It may not be a complete solution, I believe that this will be a big blow to the criminals who hides in anonymity by using) pre-paid SIM cards," he added.

Senator JV Ejercito also lauded the President and his fellow senators for the passage into law of the SIM Card Registration Act.

"We assure the public that we will be closely monitoring the implementation of this Act," Ejercito said.

Senator Ramon Revilla Jr. said the passage into law of the SIM Card Registration Act has been a "long time coming".

"We are finally moving forward towards eradicating crimes that take advantage of the anonymity provided by unregistered SIM cards back then," Revilla said.

‘Nefarious digital activities’ are numbered

At the House of Representatives, Valenzuela City 1st District Rep. Rex Gatchalian said the days of “nefarious and fraudulent digital activities” aided by SIM are numbered following the signing of the law.

"We thank President Marcos for immediately signing this landmark law. With the law in place, the necessary tool is now in place to eradicate, once and for all, the illicit activities involving the use of SIM like text scams, phishing and data breaches that had victimized countless Filipinos in the past,” the chair of the House Committee on Local Government said.

Gatchalian, who was present during the signing ceremonies, is one of the principal authors of the bills consolidated into the SIM Registration Act at the House of Representatives, having filed House Bill 794 immediately upon assuming office on July 1.

But more than witnessing the bill being enacted into law on his term, the lawmaker had extra reason to celebrate as it was Senator Sherwin Gatchalian, who pursued the enactment of the measure while still a member of the House of Representatives in the 16th Congress.

“We are happy that we now have a law in place that will establish the system of registration to secure digital transactions, reduce fraud and address acts of criminal syndicates utilizing the SIM,” Gatchalian said.

House Majority Leader Manuel Jose ‘Mannix” Dalipe also thanked Marcos for his “quick and decisive action” to sign the SIM Registration Act of 2022.

“This law will surely provide Filipinos a greater sense of security against scammers, unwanted phone solicitations and other criminal activities including terrorism. This law will also help the government ensure a responsible use of the mobile phone technology,” he said.

ACT-CIS Party-list Rep. Jocelyn Tulfo said the enactment of RA 11934 or the SIM Card Registration Act “serves as an important event in our history paving the way to more legislations fitting today’s technological advances and the easier access to information.”

“As one of its principal proponents, I firmly believe that through the SIM Card Registration Act, more Filipinos will be at ease in their daily communications and will curb the rapidly increasing number of criminal activities using SIM cards,” she said.

Meanwhile, Camarines Sur 2nd Dist. Rep. Luis Raymund Villafuerte said: “All mobile phone subscribers will now be better protected against the plethora of phone-based scams, more so now when digital tricksters have managed to hack more personal information from their victims, including the actual names of these cellphone users they intend to swindle.”

The SIM Registration Act seeks to regulate the sale and distribution of SIM cards; promote end-user accountability; prevent the proliferation of mobile phone scams and data breaches; and assist law enforcement agencies in resolving crimes involving the use of mobile phone units.

Among the key provisions of the just-signed law include the establishment of a system of registration of SIMs for all users by the submission of pertinent data electronically through a platform or website to be provided by the Public Telecommunication Entities (PTEs).

To regulate the registration and use of SIM’s, all SIM’s to be sold shall be in a deactivated state. It shall only be activated after the end-user completes the process of registration.

The registration shall carry the full name, date of birth, gender, and address of the enduser appearing in a valid government-issued identification document with photo such as passport, national ID, GSIS e-Card, digitized SSS ID, driver’s license, voter’s ID and Senior Citizen’s card among others.

It requires end-users to immediately inform the PTEs through its facility, of any change in the information after registration, including requests for deactivation.

RA 11934 also provides provisions of confidentiality and non-disclosure of information which prohibit disclosure of any information of a subscriber, unless upon subpoena by a competent authority pursuant to an investigation based on a sworn complaint, that a specific mobile number was or is being used in the commission of a crime or that it was utilized as a means to commit a malicious, fraudulent or unlawful act.

The confidentiality clause in the SIM card registration shall take effect at the point of activation.

It also mandates the registration of all existing SIM subscribers. Failure to comply within the prescribed period stated in the Act shall authorize the PTEs to automatically deactivate its services to the specific existing SIM.

The signing into law of the SIM Registration Act held at the Malacañang Palace was witnessed by Vice President Sara Duterte, Executive Secretary Lucas Bersamin, Senate President Migz Zubiri, House Speaker Martin Romualdez, Senator Grace Poe with other senators, and Rep. Sandro Marcos with other congressmen. (PNA)