TAGUM CITY—The passage of a bill mandating the registration of mobile phones’ pre-paid Subscriber Identity Module (SIM) card has earned criticisms both from mobile users and sellers, saying it is unpractical and may violate end users’ basic rights such as the right to communicate and the right of confidentiality.
The House Committee on Information and Communications Technology (ICT) earlier this week approved for plenary debates for the House Bill 5231 or simply known as the “Subscriber Identity Module (SIM) Card Registration Act.”
“It’s impractical because the process of registering and buying a SIM card under the proposed measure is tedious and time consuming. I don’t have the luxury of time to submit all the requirements being asked by the bill,” mobile user Claire Montecalvo, 27, a government employee, shared to Davao Today.
House Bill 5231 proposes to mandatorily require the registration of the SIM across the country which the government and law enforcement agencies claim may help deter crimes.
For Montecalvo, however, “it is farfetched that it will help combat crimes. If there is, it would only be minimal and wouldn’t impact the rising toll of criminalities in the country.”
“What law enforcement agencies must do first is to clean their own ranks and do their jobs dutifully. The government is creating another mess to the ailing situation. The bill won’t help, certainly,” Montecalvo added.
Under the bill, a SIM card user or an end user is required to accomplish and sign a control-numbered registration form issued by any Public Telecommunications Entity (PTE). Aside from the form, each direct seller shall require a SIM user to present a valid identification card with photo to support the user’s identity.
An attestation form stating that the end user has personally appeared before the direct seller and the presented documents are all true and correct which was accomplished by the same person—is one of the requirements that mobile users must also accomplish.
The bill also stressed that non-compliance of the requirements will be refused sale of a SIM card— a provision which did not sit well with mobile SIM resellers.
Michelle Dimabildo, 45, a SIM reseller, at Tagum’s Public Transport Terminal, said that such measure would violate a person’s right to communicate due to non-compliance of requirements.
“It’s very hard to implement it because not all mobile users have identification cards. What if they don’t comply the requirements? Are we going to deny or deprive their right to communicate? They should realize that communication is indispensable nowadays. I won’t obey the law because it violates our basic right,” stressed Dimabildo.
“This will also affect our business operations if our SIM cards will not be sold due to non-compliance. They should have consulted resellers first because this involves money. Will the government and telecommunication companies refund us for our unsold SIM cards?” she asked.
Mobile user Lourd Gonzales, 20, a college student in this city, also feared that bill would violate “confidentiality” and may intrude one’s privacy.
“The bill is silent to the possibility that confidentiality may be breached,” said Gonzales, noting that “one’s mobile number is accessible to SIM resellers and is prone to some abuses.”
“The bill should also include a penalty for breach of confidentiality by way of exposing, disclosing a person’s phone number. The bill should penalize the abusers too,” Gonzales said.
Calls to oppose the registration of prepaid SIM cards were echoed also by telecommunications companies as early 2013.
The Philippine Chamber of Telecommunications Operators (PCTO) said registering over 100 million SIM cardholders will be an “administrative nightmare.”
PCTO, in its position paper submitted to Congress last 2013, said “ the bill if enacted into law may violate the “right to telecommunicate” as provided by the United Nations’ Committee on Human Rights.
PCTO is composed of telecommunication giants Bayantel, Digitel, Globe, PLDT, and Smart Communications.
Muntinlupa City Representative Rodolfo G. Biazon, author of HB 525, reportedly said “the registration of pre-paid SIM cards would put a stop to the brazen theft of mobile phone units which have become an indispensable communication tool to everyone.”
House Bill 5231 substituted House Bills 525, 858, 1519, 2444, 2588, 2624, 3295, 3602 and 3928, which seeks to establish registering prepaid SIM cards. (davaotoday.com)