Camarines Sur Rep. Luis Raymund Villafuerte has urged the Department of Information and Communications Technology (DICT) and the National Telecommunications Commission (NTC) to work closely with local public telecommunications entities (PTEs) to ensure a foolproof system in the registration of all subscriber identity module (SIM) cards.
The lawmaker said local PTEs should be given ample time to prepare for the mandatory registration and future-proofing of their systems, before requiring all cellphone users to register their SIMs within the prescribed period.
He said a primary and very important concern is the safe collection and storage of private and sensitive data of would-be registrants that are stored in as many as 150 million SIMs.
Villafuerte said the PTEs should also be involved in the crafting of the implementing rules and regulations (IRR) for Republic Act 11934 or the SIM Registration Act.
“The DICT and NTC should be 100% confident that by the time our cellphone owners are given a deadline to sign up, the would-be national database of SIM data is foolproof against attacks from devious local and foreign groups that hide behind the cloak of anonymity in perpetrating crimes with the use of cellphones,” he stressed.
Villafuerte likewise urged the DICT and NTC to come up with an “ultra safe” cybersecurity system that would also prevent PTEs or other groups from exploiting the would-be database for telemarketing purposes.
“Although we commend the DICT and NTC for wanting to put on fast track the crafting of the IRR for RA 11394, we caution their officials against rushing headlong on the mandatory registration of SIMs without first ensuring that they have, in tandem with our PTEs, future-proofed their would-be nationwide system of collecting, storing and managing biometric data and other personal information from as many as 150 million cellphone numbers against data breaches and other security risks,” he said.
Villafuerte, who co-authored RA 11934, supported the plan by DICT Secretary Ivan John Uy to let both prepaid and postpaid subscribers to register their respective SIM cards online to avoid the scenario of them getting stuck in long queues to sign up at registration centers of PTEs in commercial establishments, including malls.
“Online registration by cellphone owners is a better option so as to avoid the specter of them getting stuck in long queues at the sign-up centers to be chosen by our PTEs,” he pointed out, adding that once the law becomes effective, all existing prepaid and postpaid SIM users shall be required to register within 180 days to avoid deactivation of their cellphone numbers.
In its record-keeping of information, RA 11934 mandates PTEs to ensure that the end-users’ data are secured and protected at all times, and requires these firms to comply with “the minimum information security standards prescribed by the DICT consistent with internationally accepted cybersecurity standards and relevant laws, rules and regulations.”
The law likewise mandates the DICT to do an annual audit on the PTEs’ compliance with information security standards.
Speaker Martin Romualdez, who is the principal author of the House version of the SIM Registration Act, said the law will be the first line of defense against scammers, con artists, and criminal elements who use cellphone and other electronic communication gadgets for nefarious activities.
Romualdez warned text scammers to desist from their illegal activities, assuring that they will be caught and prosecuted to the full extent of the law.
“This Act will not only help promote responsibility among end users of SIMs for electronic devices, but also provide our law enforcers the necessary tools to resolve crimes involving telecommunication devices,” the Speaker said.