Senators seek probe on National ID System amid Covid-19 outbreak

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The distribution of food and financial aid to families affected by the quarantines caused by Covid-19 would not have been delayed if the National ID program has been fully implemented, three senators have said.

Credit: PNA.gov.ph

Senate President Vicente Sotto III and Senators Panfilo Lacson and Ramon “Bong” Revilla Jr. filed separate resolutions seeking an investigation on the status of the implementation of Republic Act 11055, or the Philippine Identification System (PhilSys) Act.

“Amidst the Covid-19 outbreak, several elective officials are calling for a ‘full-blown’ and immediate implementation of the National ID System as this would not only aid in the efficient distribution of the social amelioration program (SAP) currently being implemented by different government agencies but would also help our law enforcement agencies in fighting crimes and facilitate key government services and transactions, among others,” said Sotto and Lacson in their Senate Resolution No. 352.

Revilla, for his part, said in his SRN 355, that authorities blamed the non-implementation of the National ID System to the delay in the distribution of assistance to the indigents.

“Reportedly, implementation of the said social amelioration program has been delayed because of discrepancies in the list of beneficiaries of the national government and the local government units,” Revilla said.

RA 11055 was signed into law on August 6, 2018 while its implementing rules and regulations were signed and approved 60 days later. The measure seeks to establish a single national identification system for all citizens and resident aliens of the country.

PhilSys aims to “promote seamless delivery of service, to improve the efficiency, transparency, and targeted delivery of public and social services, to enhance administrative governance, to reduce corruption and curtail bureaucratic red tape, to avert fraudulent transactions and misrepresentations, to strengthen financial inclusion, and to promote ease of doing business.”

Sotto and Lacson noted in their resolution that even before the approval of the measure, Congress has already allocated P2 billion for the “National ID System” under the 2018 budget of the Philippine Statistics Authority (PSA), which is the lead implementing agency of the program, although the entire budget for the program amounts to P25 billion.

“From 2018 to 2020 General Appropriations Act, a budget of P2 billion has been allotted for the National ID System, totaling to only P6.096 billion budget allocation for three (3) years,” the resolution stated. However, since its enactment into law, the two senators said there’s no significant headway on its implementation. The PSA started the first pilot testing of the program only on the last quarter of 2019, covering a “small number of individuals” from Metro Manila.

Sotto and Lacson said the executive branch should roll out the National ID System to solve discrepancies in the list of beneficiaries for cash aid, noting that it was President Rodrigo Duterte who has recently acknowledged that the National ID System would have avoided the unnecessary delay in the delivery of emergency subsidy program.

“The national ID system will solve any discrepancies between local government units and database from the Department of Social Welfare and Development,” Sotto said.

Lacson, who sponsored the measure in the Senate, added there is no other time than now when it is most needed.

“The National ID system was signed into law nearly two years ago. There is no other time than now where it is most needed. I hope the National Economic and Development Authority can fast-track the implementation of the National ID system, as directed by the President. NEDA should have ample help from the Philippine Statistics Authority as the frontline agency, and the Department of ICT which plays a major role,” he said.

“The first question is, is the system ready to accept registrants? If so, they should give priority to the marginalized sector, and those targeted for financial assistance because of the Covid-19 crisis,” he added.

The PSA said the mass registration for the National ID System has been moved from July to October this year in light of the public health emergency due to the coronavirus pandemic.

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