SIM registration not for public surveillance – DOJ chief
MANILA, Philippines — Justice Secretary Jesus Crispin Remulla on Monday allayed public apprehension over the SIM Card Registration Act, saying it “will not be used for state surveillance, red-tagging or any such nefarious purpose.”
Telecommunication companies are all set to enlist some 180 million mobile subscribers starting today (Dec. 27) as mandated by the SIM (subscriber identity module) card registration law, according to regulators.
Jon Paulo Salvahan, deputy commissioner at the National Telecommunications Commission, said in a briefing on Monday that telco players have created their respective online platforms where subscribers can register their SIM cards.
“As relayed to us by the different telcos, they are ready with their systems [and] are ready to accept registration,” he said.
All SIM cards being sold starting today will not work unless these are registered by the buyers themselves while existing mobile subscribers have four months to register their SIM cards to avoid deactivation.
Globe Telecom Inc. corporate and legal services group head Ariel Tubayan said subscribers could visit their website to know the step-by-step procedures, which take less than five minutes.
Adel Tamano, Dito Telecommunity chief administrative officer, said they were giving an incentive of two gigabytes of free data to participating subscribers to encourage them to enlist.
The SIM card registration law was signed on Oct. 10 as a way to curb the proliferation of text scams, which have been on the rise during the pandemic.
“The sooner we are able to accomplish the registration the better so that we can start experiencing the effect and protection of the law,” said Anna Mae Lamentillo, undersecretary at the Department of Information and Communications Technology (DICT), urging the public to register immediately.
Currently, Globe has a mobile subscriber base of 87.9 million, Smart 67.99 million, and Dito 15 million.
“For the general public and fellow Filipinos, please do not be afraid of the SIM Registration Act,” Remulla said during a press briefing.
According to him, the collection of data by telecommunication companies would be under stringent regulatory oversight and monitoring of concerned government agencies.
The justice secretary added that the law provides that the DICT must perform an annual audit on the telcos’ compliance with information security standards.
“This will be a whole-of-government approach to ensure that in the implementation of this law, respect for freedoms enshrined in the Constitution is maintained,” said Remulla.
He said the Department of Justice (DOJ) was fully supportive of SIM registration because this would address one of the common challenges in the investigation and prosecution of cybercrime and cyber-related cases.
Citing data from the DOJ’s Office of Cybercrime, Remulla said they received a total of 4,899 reports of harassment or unlawful debt collection from online lending companies from 2020 up to December this year, wherein the harassment was usually done through mobile phone calls and SMS.
National Prosecution Service statistics also show that the case disposition rate in relation to cybercrime has increased from 601 cases in 2020 to 1,218 cases in 2022, with a 30-percent conviction rate in 2022 compared to 25 percent in 2020.
“We are hopeful that with the full implementation of the law, these case disposition and conviction rates will be further improved,” he said.
Deterrent to child abuse
As chair of the Inter-Agency Council Against Trafficking, Remulla said he believed that SIM registration would be an added tool for government agencies in enforcing laws against trafficking in persons and online sexual abuse and exploitation of children (OSAEC).
“Majority of the funds associated with child pornography remitted by offenders from other countries are coursed through money changers and remittance agents. Given that remittance transactions require mobile numbers of senders and receivers, offenders or victims may easily be identified and located using mobile numbers in potential OSAEC cases,” explained Remulla.