Scams and cybercrime again prove the utter failure of mandatory SIM registration

This article is available in Pilipino

After almost two years of compulsory registration of SIM cards, the number of victims of text scams and cybercrime has only increased. Even senators who voted the bill into law could not deny it.

In a press conference last June 7, Aquilino Pimentel III, one of those who voted for mandatory SIM registration, admitted that the “new technology” used for SIM registration is possibly being used to spread text scams. The SIM Registration Act (Republic Act No. 11934) was enacted on 2022.

“I had hoped taht this would not happen, but there are many victims, so we have to review what the loophole is. I think the technology (for registering) is also the technology being used to circumvent the law,” Pimentel said.

He is now pushing for a senate hearing to “amend” the law, which privacy and digital rights groups have previously opposed and called to be scrapped.

Privacy groups have long demanded the scrapping of SIM registration. Even then, they said that countless hearings conducted by the senate would be useless because compulsory SIM registration has already been proven ineffective against cybercrimes.

Last year, the Senate even moved to expand the data collected by the state and private telecommunications companies to make the law “effective” instead of repealing the law. (This included submitting a photograph of the SIM card user.) The Junk SIM Registration Network opposed this at the time saying such “fixes” were unacceptable.

“The SIM registration law cannot be ‘remedied’ without serious implications for our privacy and communication rights,” the group said last year. It called the law a tool for “mass surveillance” because of the vast amount of data it forcibly collects from SIM card users.

The number of cybercrimes have been increasing since the enactment of compulsory registration of SIMs. The Philippine National Police Anti-Cybercrime Group itself said the number of cybercrime cases increased by 21.84% in the first quarter of 2024 compared to the last quarter of 2023. Between 2022 and 2023, it increased by 53%.

AB: Scams and cybercrime again prove the utter failure of mandatory SIM registration