Deputy Speaker Wes Gatchalian on Thursday said the proposed Subscriber Identity Module (SIM) Card Registration Act could help law enforcement agencies in tracking down delinquents who use mobile phones with SIM cards to pursue nefarious activities.

Gatchalian made the statement after Congress ratified the report on House Bill 5793 and Senate Bill 2395, or “An Act Eradicating Mobile Phone, Internet Or Electronic Communication-Aided Criminal Activities, Mandating For This Purpose Ownership Registration Of All SIM Cards For Electronic Devices And Social Media Accounts.”

The measure is now awaiting President Rodrigo Duterte’s signature.

Gatchalian, a principal author of the bill, said all public telecommunication entities (PTEs) shall require the registration of SIM cards as a pre-requisite to the sale and the activation of the subscription to deter the proliferation of SIM card, internet, or electronic communication-aided crimes.

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These nefarious activities include terrorism, text scams, unsolicited, indecent or obscene messages, bank fraud, libel, anonymous online defamation, trolling, hate speech, the spread of digital disinformation or fake news.

“Indeed, we are grateful for the avowed support of the present leadership in fulfilling its legislative mandate to ratify this landmark measure, knowing the timely and vital role of information and modern communications technology at this time,” Gatchalian said.

Under the bill, all existing SIM card subscribers with active services shall register with their respective PTEs within 180 days from the effectivity of this proposal.

An extension period of no longer than 120 days shall be allowed upon a valid written request to the Department of Information and Communications Technology (DICT).

The failure of the subscriber to register shall authorize the PTE to automatically deactivate or retire the SIM card number. It is likewise the responsibility of the SIM card owner to report its loss or of any change in the information after registration.

“We change SIM cards as fast as we change our soiled shirts. Alarmingly, this seeming boundless stream of supply has become a magnet for nefarious and illegal activities. By requiring the registration of SIM cards, we promote accountability in its use and provide law enforcement agencies the tool to resolve crimes which involve its utilization,” Gatchalian said.

He said even the telcos themselves, as well as courier and delivery riders, are supportive of the push for mandatory SIM card registration.

The registration required under the measure shall be implemented at no cost to the end-users or the third-party resellers.

Gatchalian stressed that all data gathered pertinent to the registration shall be kept in compliance with the Data Privacy Act of 2012 and any breach or unauthorized disclosure of information shall be imposed the penalties prescribed in the bill.

The National Telecommunications Commission, in close consultation with the PTEs, social media providers, the Department of Trade and Industry, DICT, and the National Privacy Commission shall be among the government agencies which shall formulate the necessary guidelines in the proper implementation of the real-name registration program based on the parameters set by the measure. (PNA)

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