Senate of the Philippines

Senate approves bill requiring SIM card registration, unmasking trolls

Mara Cepeda
Senate approves bill requiring SIM card registration, unmasking trolls
If the bill becomes law, those caught using fake identities to register their SIM cards or social media accounts could be jailed for up to 12 years

MANILA, Philippines – Senators approved a bill on Thursday, December 16, that would require mobile phone users to register their SIM cards with the goal of curbing cases of subscriber fraud.

The bill includes a provision designed to help “unmask” trolls on social media. 

Voting 21-0-0, the Senate passed on third and final reading Senate Bill (SB) 2395 or the proposed SIM Card Registration Act on Thursday, the chamber’s final session for 2021 before the start of its holiday break. 

Under SB 2395, mobile phone users would be required to register their SIM cards with their respective telecommunication firms. Failure to do so would mean the SIM card number would either be deactivated or retired by the telco.

The goal is to to stop cases of SIM card, internet, or electronic communication-aided crimes like text scams, unsolicited or indecent messages, bank fraud, libel, anonymous online defamation, trolling, hate speech, and the spread of disinformation.

Senate Minority Leader Frank Drilon also introduced a provision in Section 5 of the bill that would compel all social media platforms operating in the Philippines to require those who want to create accounts to provide their real names and phone number during registration. 

Drilon said this would prevent anyone making anonymous accounts online. He earlier mulled crafting a separate law that would compel tech platforms to reveal the identity of trolls.

The veteran lawmaker said a troll “is a virus that hides behind anonymity and continues to spread nothing but hatred and disinformation.”

“This provision is a solution to the anonymity that provides the environment for trolls and other malicious attacks to thrive in the age of social media,” Drilon said.

What would be the punishment for those caught using fake identites in registering their SIM cards or social media accounts? 

They stand to face jail time between 6 months up to 12 years, a fine up to P200,000, or both should SB 2395 become law. 

Senator Grace Poe, who sponsored the bill as chairperson of the Senate committee on public services, said the measure is designed to prevent technology-aided crimes in the country.

“The measure establishes another layer of security protection for Filipinos which will hopefully deter criminals from perpetrating their wicked plans. It is high time that we beef up our own infrastructures to address these threats to security,” said Poe.

A recent surge in text message scams supposedly offering jobs and investments has prompted an investigation by the National Privacy Commission

Just last week, nearly 700 clients of Banco de Oro (BDO) were also scammed by fraudulent transactions made online. BDO and the Bangko Sentral ng Pilipinass are now probing into the hacking incident, which caused BDO users to lose thousands in cash. 

The House approved its own version of the SIM card registration bill on December 6. 

For the bill to become law, both the House and the Senate would first have to convene a bicameral conference committee to reconcile conflicting provisions in their respective measure. One chamber may also just adopt the other’s version to hasten the approval.

The final Congress-approved version would then be transmitted to Malacañang for President Rodrigo Duterte’s signature. – Rappler.com

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Mara Cepeda

Mara Cepeda specializes in stories about politics and local governance. She covers the Office of the Vice President, the Senate, and the Philippine opposition. She is a 2021 fellow of the Asia Journalism Fellowship and the Reham al-Farra Memorial Journalism Fellowship of the UN. Got tips? Email her at mara.cepeda@rappler.com or tweet @maracepeda.