PLDT and Smart still keen on SIM card registration law despite veto

SIM card registration
Image by Andrei Metelev | Bigstockphoto

CommsUpdate: The Manila Bulletin writes that Filipino telecoms operator PLDT and mobile arm Smart Communications remain committed to SIM card registration despite President Rodrigo Duterte having vetoed the SIM Card Registration Act last week.

Whilst the bill’s purview was to reduce the possibilities for electronic communication-enabled crimes, Duterte said he was ‘constrained to disagree’ with a proposed provision on social media registration which he argues could threaten constitutionally protected rights.

In the wake of the setback, PLDT chairman Manuel V Pangilinan confirmed that his company is still hoping to find a way to get SIM cards registered.

PLDT/Smart CEO Alfredo S Panlilio said: “Smart has long been in the forefront of consumer online protection and has been actively pushing programs toward this pursuit … This includes initiatives that keep our customers safe from scams and fraud, activities that uphold the highest standards of data privacy, and programs that promote safe online spaces for all, especially for children.”

Separately, Senate President Vicente C Sotto III announced earlier this week that he intends to override Duterte’s veto before the 18th Congress closes.

SIM card registration has become a widely spread practice in at least 157 countries, typically touted as a mechanism for combating terrorism, fraud and other crimes, as well as bolstering national security. However, while PLDT and Smart support the policy, the GSMA – which represents mobile operators globally – has been skeptical of such policies, stating in official position papers and reports that there is a lack of empirical evidence demonstrating that SIM card registration reduces crime or improves national security.

The GSMA also warned in a report last year [PDF] that SIM card registration policies can result in digital, social and financial exclusion for people in low- and middle-income countries who don’t have sufficient ID proof to register for a SIM card – especially women, refugees, disabled people, the unemployed.

The GSMA report recommended that governments who mandate SIM card registration also establish “inclusive (digital) identification ecosystems” that enable everyone to acquire an official or recognized form of ID that enables them to comply with SIM card registration requirements.

The Philippines government launched a national ID system last year. By the end of 2021, over 50 million people registered for the ID system, or roughly half the population.

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