CORRECTION: Groups intensify calls to veto SIM card registration act

·Contributor
·5 min read
Commuters of LRT-2 are waiting for the next train while using their smartphones to avoid boredom in Santolan Station, Pasig City, Philippines on January 22, 2021. There are 74 million smartphone users in the Philippines recorded in 2019. More people are using phones today because of the pandemic's lockdown and solution for their online works and learnings. Rights groups are calling to veto the SIM Card Registration Act that is set to lapse on March 4, 2022. (Photo by Ryan Eduard Benaid/NurPhoto via Getty Images)
Commuters of LRT-2 are waiting for the next train while using their smartphones to avoid boredom in Santolan Station, Pasig City, Philippines on January 22, 2021. There are 74 million smartphone users in the Philippines recorded in 2019. More people are using phones today because of the pandemic's lockdown and solution for their online works and learnings. Rights groups are calling to veto the SIM Card Registration Act that is set to lapse on March 4, 2022. (Photo by Ryan Eduard Benaid/NurPhoto via Getty Images)

CORRECTION: In a story published March 4, 2022 about the Philippines' SIM Card Registration Act, Yahoo Philippines erroneously reported the act lapsed into law due to President Rodrigo Duterte not signing the legislation.

According to the UP Internet Freedom Network, the SIM Card Registration act was submitted to the Office of the President on March 18 and not on February 2 as they previously reported. The act was vetoed by President Duterte as announced by Press Secretary Martin Andanar on Friday (April 15). The article has been updated to reflect these changes.

A corrected version of the story is below:

Rights groups intensified their calls to veto the Subscriber Identity Module (SIM) Card Registration Act due to its “alarming provisions” a month after its congress approval and impending submission to the Office of the President.

Once passed, the proposed measure would require subscribers to register and present a valid ID before purchasing SIM cards. The measure will also penalize the use of fictitious identities in social media accounts. However, non-profit organizations have launched online petitions to veto the act over possible abuses.

Rights groups: veto the act

The Computer Professionals’ Union (CPU), a group that advocates reform for information and communication technology in the Philippines, expressed concerns over security issues in the act, urging President Duterte to veto it. The group cites past government data leaks in its concern over security risks that the public might face once the act is implemented.

“[The act] robs us of the additional security that anonymity gives us, especially for celebrities, public figures, influencers, activists, human rights defenders, victims of domestic abuse and violence against women and children, and even individuals who simply wish to compartmentalize their personal lives from the rest of their activities,” CPU said.

Fliers distributed in protest actions as prepared by the Computer Professional’s Union. (Source: Computer Professional’s Union/Facebook)
Fliers distributed in protest actions as prepared by the Computer Professional’s Union. (Source: Computer Professional’s Union/Facebook)

Another rights group, Democracy.Net PH, pointed out the ‘flawed’ provisions in the act that pose privacy and safety risks to users.

In their veto petition against the bill, Democracy.Net cites vague provisions that violate freedom of expression and other rights guaranteed by the constitution.

“It treats certain actions as if they were already crimes, such as "trolling", "hate speech", and "spread of digital disinformation or fake news", even though this currently finds no basis under existing Philippine laws, and then invokes them to justify the need for the law and its oppressive impositions,” the group said in their veto petition.

SIM Card Registration Act, ‘oppressive, prone to abuse’

Citing restrictions on their gender expressions, militant LGBTQIA+ rights group Bahaghari also expressed concerns about the act’s repercussions on the LGBTQIA+ community.

“Cruelly, the SIM Card Registration Act will also criminalize transgender people and other members of the LGBTQ+ community, many of whom choose a lived name in place of their legal name, as an important part of their gender expression,” the group said.

Meanwhile, youth organizations in Southern Tagalog launched a protest action earlier today in Calamba City to condemn and call for the vetoing of the SIM Card Registration Act amid its enactment to law.

Led by the UP Internet Freedom Network (UP Internet), an alliance of students and volunteers advocating for internet freedom, youth leaders in the mobilization cite the law’s ‘anti-people’ policies and potential for abuse.

Merwin Alinea, one of the founders of UP Internet, highlights barriers to accessibility over the currently accessible SIM cards. Alinea also added that the law can also be utilized by state forces to harass and launch state-sponsored surveillance and attacks against their critics. “The loss of accessibility, erstwhile introducing risks to individuals by making them vulnerable to scams, spoofing, and data leaks will only worsen the disadvantaged position of the masses, more so in a period where we are reliant on long-distance communications,” Alinea stated.

UP Internet’s president, Gerard Laydia, also raised alarm over issues in the act. “Contrary to the SIM Card Registration Act’s purpose of “eradicating” electronic communication-aided and online crimes such as text scams, bank fraud, defamation, and the like: the act would make the Filipino people, especially activists, human rights defenders, and the youth, more vulnerable to cyber attacks as it would give the people in power unprecedented access to private information,” Laydia said.

“Protests and filing of legal documents are also planned to hopefully repeal or put the act on hold,” Laydia added.

Basti Evangelista is a news and opinion writer who focuses on Philippine national politics and sectoral issues. His personal advocacy includes press freedom and social justice. He regularly plays online games with his friends during his free time. The views expressed are his own.

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