SIM card registration bill is undemocratic and anti-poor

This article is available in BisayaPilipinoChinese

We reiterate our view that enacting a law requiring the registration of SIM cards will violate people’s democratic rights and curtail their basic freedoms. Claims of solving criminality is a sham. In the end, the SIM card registration bill will only aid the purpose of establishing a surveillance state.

The proposed law was passed with undue haste by the committees of the Senate and House of Representatives, and by their bicameral conference, dismissing the grave concerns of groups advocating human rights and privacy concerns. Even without clear information how databases and information were compromised that led to a recent rise in cases of spear phishing, the Marcos regime wants to set up a database that will be a delectable target to be hacked or bought by criminal syndicates.

We reaffirm the statement on the matter of SIM card registration which we issued earlier this year. The following points should be emphasized:

Requiring people to register their SIM cards takes away people’s right to privacy and anonymity, which are crucial elements to their other freedoms. SIM card registration will give the state a near omnipotent weapon to monitor every individual’s movement, consumption, private information as well as views on politics, religion or any other issue.

The right to free expression can only be effectively exercised if it comes with the assurance that one will not be subject to reprisals. If they are required to register their SIM cards, people will now think more than twice before exposing corruption and abuses by bureaucrats, state armed forces or big companies, knowing that the information they will reveal can be traced back to them.

Social media have taught and compelled people to give up their privacy and anonymity over the internet. This has given rise to online attacks as people become clear targets of trolls and bullies typically associated with the military and police and other armed state agencies.

Claims that SIM card registration will solve scams and crimes are false and unproven. Senators and congressmen who are pushing this bill are turning a blind eye to the fact that SIM registration failed to solve criminality or stop criminals in countries that implemented it, including Mexico, which did away with SIM registration after three years of failed experimentation.

You do not solve crimes by requiring the entire population to submit to fingerprinting, for the claimed purpose of “eliminating suspects.” Requiring everyone to submit and have their private information available to the police is sloppy and lazy police work.

The insistence of police that “you have nothing to fear if you have done nothing wrong” is false and empty assurance of a surveillance state whose oppressive power is precisely derived from controlling, centralizing and organizing big data from seemingly innocuous information. One only has to look at how private monopoly companies such as Google, Facebook and others have used collected private information as raw material to target people with advertising, mind-control algorithms and targeted curtailment of the right to speech.

The privately-held giant databases will certainly become targets of criminal syndicates. Recent news that spear phishing has heightened and become more prevalent are clear indications that databases (including those collected through the “contact tracing forms”) are being hacked into or even sold. This targeted methods of fraud or advertising will likely become more prevalent as personal information about SIM cards become available in databases for criminals to steal or buy.

Registration of SIM cards, furthermore, will make telecommunications more inaccessible to the poor, especially the peasant population in the countryside, who usually do not have complete documents or papers that are set to be required.

We urge all democratic groups, human rights organizations, privacy and anonymity advocates and all types of people’s mass organizations to continue raising their opposition to the SIM registration bill. The Filipino people must not let this pass.

SIM card registration bill is undemocratic and anti-poor