Editorial: Fast-track delivery of physical national IDs

To do away with multiple identification systems, then President Rodrigo Duterte signed into law Republic Act 11055 (the Philippine Identification System Act) that put in place the national ID system in 2018. Despite fears expressed by human rights groups that the law could be used by the government in surveilling unsuspecting Filipinos, the law’s passage has been welcomed.

The multi-government ID system has been blamed as one of the reasons behind bureaucratic red tape, or the process marked by excessive complexity that often results in delay or inaction.

The government is not the only guilty party in the practice of red tape. The private sector is also guilty of doing it, and it is noticeable in most bank transactions. Complex documentary requirements could be the reason why there are Filipinos who are still unbanked—Filipinos who opt to place their savings inside piggy banks, plastic containers, earthen jars and other kinds of receptacles, and underneath their beds and floor mats even though doing any of these would not earn them interest.

An individual could not cut through the red tape if he only has one valid government ID. There are more than 10 valid IDs in the Philippines, and some of these are the passport, driver’s license, unified multi-purpose ID, PhilHealth ID, tax identification number ID, postal ID and the National Bureau of Investigation clearance.

The issuance of a national ID is viewed as a solution to the bureaucratic red tape. There will be no more need of another government-issued ID in “transactions concerning a person’s identity, marital status, birth, and other personal circumstances,” according to the House of Representatives’ Congressional Policy and Budget Research Department.

However, bureaucratic red tape could also be the reason why there is delay in the delivery of national IDs to people who have already registered for it.

In Central Visayas, the Philippine Statistics Authority (PSA) had already registered 5.9 million individuals of its 7.1 million target registrants for the national ID as of Sept. 30. But only 2.2 million of the registered individuals have so far received their physical IDs.

The delay may have been caused by the heightened verification and authentication process, according to PSA-Central Visayas information officer Mary Clare Coronado.

With the available technologies right now, the delay in delivery of physical national IDs is quite incomprehensible. The government must fast-track its delivery so that many Filipinos can reap the benefits of possessing a national ID.

According to the World Bank, the lack of personal official ID “prevents people from fully exercising their rights and isolates them socially and economically — voting, legal action, receipt of government benefits, banking, and borrowing are all virtually closed off. The widespread lack of ID in developing countries is a critical stumbling block to national growth.”

A national ID can indeed empower a Filipino living in a developing country called the Philippines.