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YAP: CLARIFY SIM CARD REGISTRATION BILL VETO

The chairman of the House committee on information and communications technology sought clarification on President Rodrigo Duterte’s move to veto the proposed Subscriber Identity Module (SIM) Card Registration Act.

Tarlac Representative Victor Yap, who is a primary author and sponsor of the bill, asked clarification from the Office of the President as to what provisions in the enrolled bill infringe upon the freedom of speech and the right to privacy of individuals.

“Freedom of speech is not an absolute right. The government has the power – nay even the duty to regulate it for the common good of its citizens. There is nothing in the bill that prohibits free speech nor invades the privacy of an individual,” Yap said.

“It is no different to the same standard of accountability for any person’s action offline or in real life.”

The legislator argued that the enrolled bill does not per se impede the constitutionally-guaranteed rights to Freedom of Speech and Privacy as the measure merely seeks to establish accountability of persons in the digital and online space, adding that it is “no different to the same standard of accountability for any person’s action offline or in real life”.

“What the bill requires is simply the registration of a SIM Card number in a person’s social media account and any person can still express their freedom of speech subject to the limitations of our existing laws,” the lawmaker stressed.

Acting presidential spokesperson Martin Andanar said the provision ordering the mandatory registration of social media accounts prompted Duterte to veto the measure.

While Duterte lauded the Congress’ efforts in finding ways to address the increasing incidence of cybercrimes and offenses related to information and communications technology (ICT), he was “constrained to disagree with the inclusion of social media in the measure, without providing proper guidelines and definitions,” Andanar explained.

The President, he said, expressed concern that the contentious provision “may give rise to a situation of dangerous state intrusion and surveillance threatening many constitutionally protected rights”.

“It is incumbent upon the Office of the President to ensure that any statute is consistent with the demands of the Constitution, such as those which guarantee individual privacy and free speech,” Andanar said.

Deputy Speaker Wes Gatchalian sided with Duterte’s objection even if he is the principal author of the bill, blaming the insertion of some provisions, which he said should be studied further and filed as a separate bill.

“The last-minute insertion of Senator (Franklin) Drilon to include the registration of social media providers is totally not in line with the essence of this bill.”

“Unfortunately, the last-minute insertion of Senator (Franklin) Drilon to include the registration of social media providers is totally not in line with the essence of this bill. There is nothing in the bill specifying clear guidelines and how to register in such a broad environment,” Gatchalian pointed out.

In February, the Senate and the House of Representatives ratified the bicameral conference committee report on contrasting provisions of the proposed SIM Card Registration Act.

Under the measure, Public Telecommunications Entities (PTEs) must require the registration of SIM cards for collection in a centralized database as a prerequisite to the sale and activation of SIM cards.

The bill has a provision that states, “All social media account providers shall require (the) real name and phone number (of a user) upon creation of account”.

It penalizes those who sign up for social media accounts using fictitious identities with a fine of P200,000 and a jail term of up to six years or both.

Direct sellers will require the end-user to present their valid identification with a photo along with an accomplished control-numbered registration form provided by the respective PTE.

A person who wants to purchase a SIM card but cannot personally register for a valid reason may opt to authorize another person to buy, given that there is a Special Power of Attorney and proper identification of the principal buyer and representative.

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