Zubiri calls for passage of SIM card registration as House bill hurdles 1st reading

Senate president Juan Miguel “Migz” F. Zubiri on Monday, Sept. 5, called on his colleagues to pass once again the SIM Card Registration Act to “eradicate all kinds of text scams” that have been victimizing the public including government officials.

Senate president Juan Miguel “Migz” F. Zubiri
Photo from Senate

“May I make an appeal to my dear colleagues, especially to the chairman of the Committee on Public Services: let us pass the SIM Card Registration Law, as soon as possible. We passed it with lots of debates in the previous Congress. Let’s pass it again, hopefully before the break, to show to the public that we mean business when it comes to stopping all sorts of text scams,” Zubiri stressed.

While at the Senate, Zubiri said he deleted 10 scam text messages from online casinos, hiring schemes, among others.

In April 2022, former president Rodrigo Duterte vetoed the SIM Card Registration Act two months after it was ratified by the House of Representatives and the Senate because of the inclusion of social media providers in the registration requirement.

Zubiri made the call after the House committee on information and communications technology approved a consolidated measure requiring the registration of all postpaid and prepaid mobile phone SIM cards.

Deputy speaker and Pampanga representative Aurelio “Dong” Gonzales moved for the consolidation of the several measures on SIM card registration.

Albay representative Joey Salceda invoked Rule 10, Section 48 in swiftly approving the consolidated bill that authorizes the committees of the House of Representatives to dispose of priority measures already filed and approved on third reading in the immediately preceding Congress.

Rule 10 provides: “In case of bills or resolutions that are identified as priority measures of the House, which were previously filed in the immediately preceding Congress and have already been approved on third reading, the same may be disposed of as matters already reported upon the approval of the members of the committee present, there being a quorum.”

In his sponsorship speech, Tingog party-list representative Jude Acidre said the unregulated SIM card market has been behind several mobile phone scams, ranging from simple text messages asking users to send cellular loads, to more sophisticated voice phishing methods and marketing spams that are used to gain unauthorized access to sensitive personal information of unsuspecting mobile phone users.

“This humble representation is cognizant of the value of democratizing mobile communication to the public. The increase in connectivity through affordable SIM Cards and mobile phones has made government service delivery more efficient and possible in the far-flung areas of the country. However, we are also conscious of the fact that the accessibility of SIM Cards has encouraged unscrupulous actors to take advantage and use this in the commission of criminal acts,” Acidre, one of the principal authors of HB No. 14, said.

At present, only SIM cards for postpaid mobile or cellular phone subscriptions are required to be registered.

Under House Bill No. 14, telcos or an authorized seller shall require an end-user to accomplish and sign in triplicate a numbered registration form. The form shall include an attestation that the person appearing before the seller is the same person who accomplished the document and that he presented valid identification cards.

The telco or its authorized seller shall not sell a SIM card if the end-user refuses to comply with the registration requirement, which will also apply to foreigners.

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

However, such information shall be disclosed upon order by a court or written request by a law enforcement agency in relation to an investigation of an unlawful act involving the use of a mobile number.

SIM cards sold or issued before the effectivity of the proposed SIM Card Registration Act will also be required to be registered.

Telcos shall maintain a registry of all subscribers and their assigned SIM cards. They shall also submit to the National Telecommunications Commission a list of their authorized sellers/agents.

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