Millions of Filipinos now benefit from improved mobile connectivity as a result of advancements in communication technology. Even though these services have played a significant role in making our lives easier, they have also introduced new security vulnerabilities. Telecommunication has been greatly expanded over the years, to the point where criminal networks and terrorist organizations have used advanced technologies for crime and terrorist operations. Lawbreakers transitioned their operations from street crimes to cybercrimes using communications technology and digital communications operating systems at the start of the pandemic in 2019, when Filipino were restricted from leaving their residences. Cyber attacks became persistent, especially this year. They have developed various methods to defraud people of their personal savings. Without the need for SIM card registration, criminals used prepaid SIM cards to mislead innocent citizens while remaining anonymous. Many Filipinos are targets of online attacks, which are spread via short messaging systems, for example. Since SIM card holders are anonymous, security forces have a much more difficult time tracing and prosecuting offenders of these cybercrimes.
From January to September of this year, the Anti-Cybercrime Group alone documented 4,254 SIM card-related criminal offenses. The said records exclude complaints addressed by other PNP units, differing government agencies, documented cases dealt with by banks and other financial institutions, and occurrences not reported by Filipino victims. A couple of months ago, Filipinos have been getting scam texts or “smishing,” in which scammers obtained SIM card users’ personal information, which has caused a grave threat to the National Privacy Commission, which has worried the Filipinos. The National Text Commission (NTC) established an official complaint page for text scams and has recently received numerous complaints. In addition, a joint investigation with telco companies is underway in light of this. With smartphone cybercrime increasing over time, alike private firms and people are investing heavily in cybersecurity. While the government continues to resolve the enormous rise in malicious text messages and scams, a new law regulating the purchase and consumption of Subscriber Identity Modules (SIMs) has at last been issued. The Philippine government has passed a key piece of legislation known as the SIM Card Registration Act.
The SIM Card Registration Act would require telecom operators to divulge the full name and residence of SIM card users in response to a court subpoena/order and will follow the standard methods. On October 10, 2022, President Ferdinand “Bongbong” Marcos Jr. approved the Sim Card Registration Act. This is the Philippines’ newest law during the term of President Ferdinand “Bongbong” Marcos. It is a unified version of House Bill 14 and Senate Bill 1310, both of which were vetoed by the prior government on the grounds that they violated constitutionally guaranteed freedoms. The initial release of sim card registration necessitated the registration of accounts on social media. This regulation was removed from the prevailing version of the law. The updated Sim Card Registration Act is completely in line with the current privacy laws in the Philippines. Data breaches and violations of the law will result in severe consequences. Government agencies, spearheaded by the National Telecommunications Commission, may now begin work on establishing guidelines for the SIM Card Registration Act.
Here is a rundown of the things you need to know about the Sim Card Registration Act:
● There will be official and authorized SIM card sellers.
According to the law, Public Telecommunications Entities (PTEs) must report to the National Telecommunications Commission a list of approved sellers or dealers in only 30 days, with an extensive list submitted every quarter of the year.
● All mobile phone subscribers should register within six (6) months.
Prepaid SIM card users should first register and confirm their phone numbers with their corresponding Public Telecommunications Entities (PTEs) 180 days after the measure goes into effect. A legitimate formal letter written to the Department of Information and Communications Technology is needed to be granted a 120-day extension. The inability to register within the time frame specified will result in the SIM being deactivated automatically. Only after you register will your SIM be reactivated.
Each individual will be able to use an electronic registration form provided by the Public Telecommunication Entity (PTE). You will be asked to provide data such as your full name, date of birth, gender, residential address, and SIM number. You must also insert a valid government-issued ID with your photo to verify your information. For underage subscribers, you should have your SIM card named after your parent or guardian, alongside a signed parental consent.
Process of sim card registration:
1. Filipino mobile phone subscribers are required to show a copy of a valid government ID with a photo during the sim card registration procedure. You may also show a National Bureau of Investigation (NBI) clearance or a birth certificate that is certified by the Philippine Statistics Authority (PSA). If ever your provided ID has been determined to be invalid, SIM card sellers may decline to sell it to you.
2. Foreigners traveling to the Philippines as tourists for less than 30 days should show a passport, evidence of residence in the Philippines, and a booking revealing the date of departure from the country, according to the law. Moreover, foreigners residing for more than 30 days must provide additional documentation, such as an Alien Employment permit issued by DOLE, Alien ACRI-Card issued BIR, school registration and ID for students, and other relevant documents. The direct seller will send the registration form to the Public Telecommunications Entities (PTEs).
● The law specifies penalties ranging from ₱100,000 to ₱1 million for law violations.
The SIM Card Registration Act defines the following offenses:
1. Failure to register a SIM card
a. 1st Offense: ₱100,000 – ₱300,000
b. 2nd Offense: ₱300,000 – ₱500,000
c. 3rd Offense: ₱500,000 – ₱1 000, 000
2. Violation of confidentiality: ₱500,000 – ₱4 000,000
3. Registering a SIM card under false identities or with forged identification documents: ₱100,000 – ₱300,000
4. Spoofing: ₱200,000
5. Reselling a stolen SIM card: ₱100,000 – ₱300,000
Government-mandated SIM card registration introduces an additional level of safety that ultimately benefits all Filipinos by reducing spam and scam SMS messages. With this law being passed, lawbreakers will be unable to benefit from the anonymity made available right now by prepaid mobile SIM cards. The SIM Card Registration Act stresses text messaging as an individual responsibility, encouraging more people to utilize available communication services in a responsible and efficient way. Cybercrime victims could now rely upon government and private agencies to help them in their desire of stopping cybercrime criminals from developing further damages.
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Written by MC Sanchez