By Erik Espina
Last week I wrote about the “PUIDe” (Phil. Universal Identification – card) as another proposition for Congress to consider in order that the country will be in tune with world trends on this issue. What must go “hand-in-glove” with this legislation is the passing of a law on “mandatory SIM registration” (SR) for all cell phone users. Note, there are roughly 90 countries around the globe that have passed laws requiring SR, precisely for identifying the real owner and user of a SIM card. Congressional attention on both approaches is one way of strengthening culpability in the abuse of anonymity in prank calls, threats, malicious texts, etc., to the consternation of government emergency/police services. Our children, teenagers, and womenfolk are often the victims of these phantom culprits.
Given the serious exigencies confronted by the police and military institutions, and how these threats impact on national security and the stability of the Philippine state, the SR is one more boost for law and order, to be responsive in the evolving scene of media/communication platforms attacked by opportunistic users committing anti-social/criminal behavior, including recruiting future terrorists, in the guise of freedom in the electronic sphere.
Our cell phones are now our portable portfolio, filing cabinet, etc., in the modern age. Even regular lined telephones are registered with the telephone company. Computers bear IP addresses, which are traceable by expert forensics. Two main arguments raised vs. SR: 1) Infringes on “right to tele-communicate” and 2) Did not stop the London bombing.
The mandatory SR may be likened to requiring a “car registration” for purposes of identification in case of accidents, use in a crime, regulation, etc. Or property subject to registration and documentation as validation to protect the vendor and vendee in a sale or resale, etc. Anyone may own as many cell phones, but before they are activated, proof of identity is required. Cell phones have become effective platforms, and like vehicles, may be used for illegal purposes. Government regulation is required.
On the 2nd argument, this argument may be likened to the police with a pistol. The firearm is not a guarantee crime will not be committed, but it does not infer an un-armed law enforcer is preferable. I am, however, suspicious. The reason tele-com companies are against this proposal is it will eat into their profit margins in a mass market which has an appreciable cycle of changing or possessing several SIM numbers/pre-paid cards. How much money are they making over the sale of unregistered Sim cards?
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