Wednesday, May 29, 2024

If re-elected, Gatchalian says he’ll refile SIM card registration bill

Re-electionist senator Sherwin Gatchalian has vowed to pursue the bill seeking to register all SIM cards being used in the country after Pres. Rodrigo Duterte vetoed the proposed legislation.

Sen. Sherwin Gatchalian
Photo from Senate

Gatchalian, author of Senate Bill 176, or an Act Requiring The Registration Of All Users of Pre-Paid Subscriber Identity Module (SIM) Cards, underscored the need to separate the legislation on social media after a more thorough and comprehensive discussion.

Ito ang isa sa mga una kong ihahain ‘pag tayo ay nakabalik sa senado. Pero ihihiwalay ko ang panukala para sa social media para mas malalim at mas komprehensibo ‘yung detalye pagdating sa pagmamandato nito. Aminado ako na ang social media ay nagagamit ngayon sa maraming hindi magagandang bagay,” he said.

Malawak ang sakop ng social media. Saklaw pa ba ng NTC (National Telecommunications Commission) ‘yung Facebook, Instagram o Tiktok accounts na ino-operate sa China? May mga ganun na komplikasyon na dapat ayusin. Ako naman ay bukas na ayusin pa ‘yung batas para maging klaro. But in theory, dapat totoong tao lang ang mag register sa social media,” he stressed.

In defending the necessity of SIM card registration, Gatchalian pointed out that criminals have been abusing the anonymity to carry out their nefarious activities and this reduces the confidence of the public in using their mobile phones in doing online or digital transactions for fear of falling victim to fraudsters.

The bill, he stressed, seeks to promote accountability in the use of SIM cards and sets mechanisms that will make it difficult for criminals to commit mobile phone, Internet or electronic communication-aided criminal activities.

At the same time, it will provide law enforcement agencies with tools to deter the commission of wrongdoings and come up with needed evidence trails that can easily lead to the resolution of cases, Gatchalian said.

Earlier, senator Grace Poe urged Congress to override the presidential veto, saying the legislature should “act in a timely manner in reconsidering the bill for approval in accordance with the legislative process.”

“Each day without the safeguards from the measure makes our people vulnerable to rip-offs that take away their money and cause them anxiety; the onslaught of cybercrimes and fake news that tear away the fabric of our democracy,” she said.

“Our laws and jurisprudence confirm that freedom of expression is not absolute, as in the cases of obscenity, libel or when public safety and order are at stake,” she added.

Sen. Franklin Drilon, meanwhile, said the veto of SIM card registration bill was a “win for troll farm operators, online bullies and fake news spreaders, who hide behind the anonymity in the social media in spreading lies and discord.”

“To say that I am disappointed by the President’s veto is an understatement. I authored this particular provision of the measure in order to address the anonymity in the internet and the social media that allowed an environment for troll accounts and fake news,” Drilon said.

Drilon lamented that the veto is a big blow to the growing fight against trolls and fake news, explaining that as long as the anonymity in the social media exists, political trolling, troll armies and fake news will continue to succeed in sowing discord and division among the Filipino people.

He cited as an example of the works of trolls the attack against Vice president Leni Robredo’s eldest daughter Aika who is the latest victim of disinformation and harassment by online trolls and troll armies.

“She is only one of the thousands of victims of trolls and fake news. Some of them are children who may bear the scars of bullying and trolling for life. The bill could have helped in preventing trolls and fake news,” Drilon said.

Drilon said the concerns that the measure could affect individual privacy and free speech cited in the veto message are unfounded.

Drilon said that Section 9 of the bill provides for the confidentiality clause which mandates that “any information obtained in the registration process described under this Act cannot be disclosed to any person.”

Drilon also disputed claims that the provision that he introduced in the proposed SIM Card Registration Act was an out of topic provision.

“It’s not a last-minute insertion. We studied it and introduced it in the Senate plenary as part of our humble contribution in the fight against trolls, fake news and other internet-related criminal activities. Twenty-two senators voted in favor of the measure on third reading last December. The House of Representatives adopted our version with little modification,” Drilon said.

However, Sen. Panfilo Lacson, who is running for president, said he agreed with the presidential veto.

“Mandating social media registration could be violative of the ‘one subject one title rule’ as defined under the 1987 Constitution, not to mention the absence of safeguards or guidelines in the said provision not even covered by the title of the measure itself.”

He added: “That being said, my version of the bill simply calls for the mandatory registration of all the SIM cards with the service providers as being practiced in other jurisdictions.”

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