Have you received a text message lately from an unknown number where the sender, conveying a sense of urgency, notified you to click on a link or to share a personal information? Well, you have most likely been the victim of a smishing attack.
As technology advances at a rapid pace, criminals have also been exploring inventive ways to perpetrate nefarious activities to prey on their victims, especially since digital activities are on the rise. One example of this is the use of unregistered and unregulated subscriber identity module cards, commonly known as SIM cards. Most, if not all, have become victims to these activities ranging from text scams and unsolicited, indecent, or obscene messages, to even more grave crimes such as bank fraud and terrorism. For the past few years, personalized spam texts that led to scams and hacking of several subscribers' personal accounts have increased rapidly that it has become a significant issue that needs to be addressed by the government.
To fight the perpetration of crimes using unregistered and unregulated SIM cards, the SIM Card Registration Act or Republic Act (RA) No. 11934 was signed into law last October 10, 2022. This law aims to provide accountability for those using SIM cards and to aid law enforcement in tracking perpetrators of crimes committed through mobile phone activities. On December 12, 2022, the National Telecommunications Commission (NTC) released the implementing rules and regulations (IRR) of the said Act.
To provide better understanding of the recently enacted law and its IRR, here are the salient points of RA No. 11934.
Is the SIM card registration mandatory?
Yes. All SIM card users, with either postpaid or prepaid subscriptions, are required to register their SIM cards with public telecommunications entities (PTEs), which are duly enfranchised and authorized public telecommunications entities engaged in providing telecommunications services. Such registration is a prerequisite to the activation of the SIM card at no added costs.
For prepaid subscribers, all existing SIM cards must be registered and confirmed with their respective PTEs within 180 days from October 28, 2022, which is until April 27, 2023. However, a 120-day extension may be granted by the NTC upon a valid written request.
For minor subscribers, a consent in writing of the parent or guardian is required for registration along with the valid identification cards (ID) of both minor and parent or guardian. In addition, SIM card registration for minors will bear the names of the consenting parent or guardian.
Foreigners traveling to the Philippines as tourists for less than 30 days should show a passport, evidence of residence in the Philippines, and a booking revealing the date of departure from the country. Moreover, foreigners residing for more than 30 days must provide additional documentation, such as an Alien Employment permit issued by DOLE, Alien ACRI-Card issued BIR, school registration and ID for students, and other relevant documents.
An individual may also register through a representative, provided that a duly notarized Special Power of Attorney, together with the original copies of valid IDs of both the principal and the representative, are presented upon registration.
Juridical entities, such as corporations, may similarly be allowed to register their own SIM cards through the submission of the owner’s registration form together with their certificates of registration and proper authorization of their representatives.
What are the required information from end-users?
It is noteworthy that the information required for SIM card registration is specific and limited.
For individual end-users, these include the full name, date of birth, sex, address (either present or official), the type of ID presented and the corresponding ID number. For foreign national end-users, additional information is required such as nationality, passport and type of travel or admission document presented.
Should the registrant be a juridical entity end-user, the business name and address and full name of the authorized signatory are required.
Presentation and submission of original and true photocopy of a valid ID is also required upon registration. The following are the acceptable valid IDs per the IRR: PhilSys National ID, Driver’s License, UMID, SSS/GSIS card, Senior Citizen’s Card, Passport, Police Clearance, NBI Clearance, Firearms License, PRC ID, Voter’s ID, IBP ID, TIN ID, OWWA ID, PWD card, Government ID, or School ID (for minors).
If the provided ID has been determined to be invalid, SIM card sellers may withhold the sale of the SIM card, pending compliance with additional requirements.
How is the SIM card users’ personal information accessed?
RA No. 11934 clearly defines provisions for confidentiality and non-disclosure. Only in response to a court order, subpoena, or official request from law enforcement authorities investigating a crime involving a mobile number, shall the PTE provide any subscriber's information.
What are the penalties for violating the law?
Penalties ranging from ₱100 thousand to ₱1 million will be imposed on violations namely, failure or refusal to register a SIM; providing false or fictitious information; providing fictitious identification documents to register a SIM; spoofing or the act of transmitting misleading information with intent to defraud or cause harm to a registered SIM; sale of a stolen SIM; and sale or transfer of a registered SIM without complying with the required registration; failure or refusal to register a SIM; breach of confidentiality; and breach of confidentiality due to negligence.
With the intention to prevent rampant criminal activities involving mobile phones, how successful is the implementation of the SIM card registration? With the risk of data privacy leaks, are SIM card users wary of sharing personal information?
Though SIM card registration may not be foolproof in ensuring that scams and fraudulent activities will be completely averted, it is one step closer in safeguarding the public from nefarious acts. Aside from the law, it is also our personal responsibility to be a little more cautious.
The early weeks of SIM card registration may have been met with challenges, but the PTEs are actively encouraging compliance of SIM card users to register by providing simplified guidance on how to register and by offering freebies such as free mobile load.
With the law in effect and the registration system in place, have you already registered your SIM card?
As published in Mindanao Times, dated 21 February 2023