The House of Representatives’ leading advocate for the adoption of a national identification system took to the floor on Tuesday to call on her colleagues to pass House Bill 6221, an Act Establishing the Filipino Identification System, or FilSys, stressing that the measure would enable the government to better serve its growing population.
In her sponsorship speech, House Committee on Population and Family Relations Chairperson and 3rd District of Laguna Rep. Sol Aragones enumerated the numerous advantages of FilSys while dispelling fears accompanying its adoption.
“We cannot allow the risks that accompany new technologies to deter us from adopting them. Neither should we allow fears of government abuse to dissuade us from adopting measures that, if properly implemented, can benefit 100 million Filipinos and Filipinos yet unborn,” said the solon, who in her speech enumerated the advantages of FilSys.
These include, among others, (1) simplified processes in public services, (2) reduction of redundancy and delay in government services and transactions, (3) elimination of multiple government identification system, (4) reduction in administrative costs and expenses, (5) promotion of greater convenience to the public, (6) facilitation of private business, (7) identification of fraudulent transactions and misrepresentations, and (8) prevention of the use of false or stolen identities.
“Madame Speaker, colleagues, fellow Filipinos, we have before us an opportunity to once again make a huge difference in the lives of our people. It will come in a package that can fit in your pocket, kasya sa bulsa, a small ID that will have a huge impact in the way our people conduct their affairs,” said Aragones, who added that there were three compelling reasons for the immediate adoption of the FilSys.
“First, we know it can work. The success of Aadhaar in India has prompted other countries to take a look at their system and replicate it in their respective nations. There is abundant proof that the benefits of these national ID systems far outweigh their inherent risks. Kung kaya ng iba, ay kaya rin natin. (If others can do it, so can we.)”
Aragones said that in other countries, national identification systems have been proven to be successful. Aragones cited India, which has Aadhaar, the most sophisticated national ID system in the world. With 1.1 billion users, Aadhar has helped India’s citizens get loans, obtain employment, and transfer money all across India.
The Indian model is so successful it has prompted the Chief Economist of the World Bank to say that it should be replicated in other countries. The World Bank’s World Development Report in 2016 also said that “a digital identification system such as India’s Aadhaar, by overcoming complex information problems, helps willing governments to promote the inclusion of disadvantaged groups.”
Aragones explained that “what began as an ambitious program in 2009 that required a sizable investment on the part of the Indian government is now paying dividends, as Aadhaar is estimated to save the Indian government two billion dollars a year––savings that could reach as much as seven billion dollars by 2018.”
The Laguna representative added that the existence of both Department of Information and Communications Technology (DICT) and the National Privacy Commission (NPC) provided additional safeguards with regard to the data to be stored in the FilSys.
“Second, we now have two national agencies who can help ensure that the FilSys is secure: the DICT and the NPC. Section 8 of the bill clearly defines their roles: to provide technical assistance in the management of the system owing to the primary mandate of upholding data privacy and instituting safeguards in the processing of personal data of citizens while allowing for the free flow of information without compromising the security of such personal data. May mga ahensya ng gobyerno na magbabantay sa seguridad ng ating mga datos. (We have agencies who will ensure the security of our data.)”
Third, Aragones said, “we have the Data Privacy Act of 2012, a law that (1) protects the privacy of individuals while ensuring free flow of information to promote innovation and growth; (2) regulates the collection, recording, organization, storage, updating or modification, retrieval, consultation, use, consolidation, blocking, erasure or destruction of personal data; and (3) ensures that the Philippines complies with international standards set for data protection. Establishing the FilSys does not water down this law; on the contrary, the earlier passage of this law provides us with the legal weapons necessary to punish those who unlawfully use the information in the FilSys. May batas na magbabantay sa seguridad ng mga datos. (We have a law that ensures the security of our data.)”
Acknowledging concerns regarding privacy, Aragones explained that there were safeguards in HB 6221 that would ensure that the FilSys data would not be misused by the government.
“These concerns will be addressed by proper safeguards, the kind of safeguards that have been put in place in HB 6221. For example, Section 13 clearly states that no person may disclose, collect, record, convey, disseminate, publish, or use any personal data registered with the FilSys, give access thereto or give copies thereof to third parties or entities, including law enforcement agencies, national security agencies, or units of the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP), except in specific instances,” explained the legislator.
“The section further states that the unauthorized or unlawful processing, disclosure, collection, recording or use of any information registered with the FilSys shall be punishable under all applicable laws, includingi RA 10173. Any information obtained as a result of unlawful acts previously mentioned shall be inadmissible in any judicial proceedings and cannot be held against the holder of the FilID or the other person involved.”
Aragones added that the bill also mandates all implementing agencies “to uphold the provisions of RA 10173 and other existing laws to ensure data protection and guarantee respect for the right to privacy throughout the whole process and accord all Filipino citizens registered under the FilSys their rights as data subjects, as provided for under RA 10173.” For monitoring purposes, the NPC will be tasked to regularly conduct a privacy impact assessment on all relevant implementing agencies.