House panel approves SIM card registration bill 

‘It is difficult to pinpoint where that exactly came from, even the ones we are seeing now with scam, phishing [link] with name (of the subscriber) on it. There could be a leak’

The House of Representatives Committee on Information and Communications Technology approved on Monday a consolidated measure that would require all postpaid and prepaid mobile phone subscriber identity module cards to be registered.

Committee chairperson Toby Tiangco of Navotas, led the approval of several measures with House Bill 14 authored by Speaker Martin Romualdez, Ilocos Norte Rep. Sandro Marcos, and Tingong Partylists Reps. Yedda Marie Romualdez and Jude Acidre as the mother bill.

According to the measure, every public telecommunications entity or authorized seller shall require an end user to accomplish and sign in triplicate a numbered registration form issued by the PTE.

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.

In any case that the end-user declines to comply with the registration requirement, which also applies to foreigners, the PTE or its authorized salesperson shall not sell a SIM card.

The authors stated in the explanatory note that while private telecommunications providers can block mobile numbers that repeatedly send spam messages, the accessibility of getting SIM cards only prompts scammers to purchase new SIM cards and continue their operations

They added that due to the lack of SIM card regulation in the country, it becomes nearly impossible to trace the persons behind the text scams and hold them accountable for fraud, breach of data privacy, or other punishable offenses using an unknown mobile number.

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

The bill requires ownership registration of SIM cards to eradicate mobile phone-aided criminal activities.

According to Romualdez, due to user complaints claiming they received text messages containing suspicious job offers, telecommunication provider Globe Telecom Inc. in 2021 had already blocked almost 71 million spam messages and deactivated 5,670 mobile phone call numbers.

PLDT, on the other hand, blocked more than 23 million text messages posing as legitimate organizations but contained links to phishing websites only in three days, from June 11 to 14 this year.

“The time has come to regulate the sale and distribution of SIM cards in order to promote end-user accountability, prevent the proliferation of mobile phone scams and data breaches, and to assist law enforcement agencies in resolving crimes involving the use of mobile phone units. In view of the foregoing, the immediate approval of this bill is earnestly sought,” the Speaker said.

However, a member of the Makabayan bloc in Congress argued that the SIM Card Registration law would only pose a risk given that the Philippines has a fragile cybersecurity system.

“While I agree with my colleagues that mobile phones should not serve as tools for crime and terrorism, SIM Card Registration law could be used for other purposes, especially sincemobile phones are being used for a lot of purposes nowadays, including financial transactions,” said Rep. Raoul Manuel of the Kabataan Partylist.

Manuel pointed out that mobile numbers are under the control of service providers, and given that they don’t have a solid cyber security mechanism, data could be used by those who have the information.

“There could be a leak,” he said.

Secretary Ivan Uy of the Department of Information and Technology, for his part, admitted that it’s hard to trace these spam messages with the full names of the subscribers.

“It is difficult to pinpoint where that exactly came from, even the ones we are seeing now with scam, phishing (link) with name (of the subscriber) on it. There could be a leak,” Uy said during the briefing.

According to him, the agency is already working with messaging apps and online wallet firms to determine where the possible leak came from.

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