Natl ID system and SIM card registration twin proposals to curtail rights

“The twin proposals from the Senate and the House of Representatives – the introduction of a national identification system and the registration of phone SIM cards – are bound to lead to the curtailment of the right to privacy, freedom of expression and other violations of civil and political rights.”

Thus said Cristina Palabay, Karapatan secretary general, amid proposals from legislators from both houses of Congress for such measures.

Albay Representative Al Francis Bichara filed House Bill No. 11 proposing a national identification system for all Filipino citizens here and abroad purportedly to facilitate and streamline government transactions. Senators Teofisto Guingona III, Tito Sotto and Bam Aquino are pushing for the mandatory registration of all phone SIM cards supposedly to prevent criminal activities, citing the recent bombing in Cagayan de Oro City.

“Such measures will aggravate the already bleak human rights situation in the country where human rights defenders and political dissenters are subjects of surveillance, threats, illegal arrests and detention, enforced disappearances and extrajudicial killings. The twin proposals seem to have been conspicuously timed when the Aquino administration and the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) have announced the intensification of their counter-insurgency program Oplan Bayanihan,” said Palabay.

Karapatan noted that “the proposals with such lame and unfounded bases open the floodgates for the wholesale violation of the people’s civil and political rights. The line of the proponents that says ‘hindi ka matatakot kung wala kang maling ginagawa’ is but another version of the government’s red tagging and anti-left hysteria.”

“A more productive response to the need for an efficient system of delivering government service to the people is through the prioritization and allocation of necessary funds for the social services, instead of giving a lion’s share of public funds to the defense sector. A more comprehensive response to criminal activities should start with the investigation and prosecution of criminal elements mostly in the Philippine National Police itself and the political biggies who protect these syndicates. The two proposals are so erroneously premised and do not address the main problems,” Palabay said.