Monday, December 2, 2013

Philippines: Justice Secretary Sees No Legal Objection to Registration of SIM Cards

According to Justice Secretary Leila de Lima, in her two-page legal opinion, the Secretary sees no illegality in the legislative proposal requiring SIM card purchases to register their SIM (subscriber identity modules) cards.

Justice Secretary De Lima said she has no legal or constitutional objection to House Bill Nos. 525, 858, 1519, 2444, 2588, and 2624, which all aim to aid law enforcement agencies in tracking down criminals who would use mobile phones to commit heinous crimes such as kidnapping with ransom, destruction of properties, and bombings, among others.

“[These bills are] within the purview of what is embodied in Article II on Declaration of Principles and State Policies, of the 1987 Philippine Constitution, particularly Section 5 thereof, which promotes the maintenance of peace and order, the protection of life, liberty and property, and the promotion of the general welfare being essential for the enjoyment of all the people,” De Lima said.

De Lima's legal opinion was sought by Rizal Rep. Joel Roy Duavit, chairman of the House committee on information and communications technology.

COMMENT: De Lima said the DOJ also supported the penal clause proposed in the bills, as well as the provisions requiring the confidentiality of personal information obtained from SIM card buyers.

Calls to require the registration of SIM card buyers were revived following a deadly cellphone-triggered bombing in Cagayan de Oro in July.

Sen. Vicente Sotto III had earlier said no new law is needed to require prepaid SIM card registration, adding that there is already an existing National Telecommunications Commission (NTC) directive on this.

Telecommunications firms, however, have contested the legislation and were able to secure a temporary restraining order against the directive. The companies contend that the directive violated a person's right to telecommunicate, share information and access equipment and network infrastructure.

It is unknown as to the duration of the temporary restraining order. 

Considering that a number of global cyber attacks have originated in the Philippines, it seems reasonable, at least from a law enforcement standpoint, that all SIM cards be registered, although it may inhibit those who wish to remain anonymous or who have nefarious objectives.