What you need to know about the Philippine national ID system

Jodesz Gavilan
(UPDATED) Proponents say the Philippine Identification System (PhilSys) can help improve the delivery of government services but experts worry about its implications on privacy

FOR BETTER. The national ID system hopes to streamline government services.

MANILA, Philippines (UPDATED) – President Rodrigo Duterte on Monday, August 6, signed into law the bill that will establish a national ID system in the Philippines.

The Senate and the House of Representatives ratified the bicameral conference committee report in the last week of May 2018. (READ: National ID law: Here’s the law, plus a quick summary)

The national ID system has been a very controversial issue in the past decades with experts warning that it could violate a person’s right to privacy. But government insists that security mechanisms are in place to protect stored information. (READ: Past attempts at a national ID system: A battleground of privacy, executive power)

Before it finally becomes law, here’s what you need to know about it:  

Why do we need a national ID system in the first place? 

The Philippine Identification System (PhilSys) is the government’s central identification platform. In a nutshell, it is a means to simplify public and private transactions.

Proponents of the national ID system said that it can greatly improve the delivery of government services – especially for those who lack proper government-issued identification cards as a person’s record in the PhilSys would be valid and sufficient proof of identity. 

According to Republic Act 11055, the system aims to “eliminate the need to present other forms of identification when transacting with the government and private sector.”

Socioeconomic Secretary Ernesto Pernia, in March 2018, said that PhilSys “can open up opportunities especially for the poor and marginalized and will make public service delivery more efficient.”

It also aims to reduce corruption and curtail bureaucratic red tape, prevent fraudulent transactions, and ease doing business in the Philippines. 

When and where do we need to register?

RA 11055 states that every citizen or resident alien in the Philippines shall register personally a year after the law takes effect

Individuals can go register in the following centers:

  • PSA Regional Provincial Offices
  • Local Civil Registry Offices
  • Government Service Insurance System 
  • Social Security System
  • Philippine Health Insurance Corporation 
  • Home Development Mutual Fund
  • Commission on Elections
  • Philippine Postal Corporation
  • Other government agencies as assigned by PSA

What will I get upon registration? 

All Filipino citizens and aliens shall register in the PhilSys. Individuals born after the law takes effect shall be registered upon birth immediately. 

Each registered person in the Philippines will be given a PhilSys Number (PSN) – a randomly generated, unique, and permanent identification number. 

A physical identification card will also be issued which will serve as “official government-issued identification document” that can be used in several transactions that require proof of identification.

Where can I use the PhilID or PSN?

The PhilID or PSN can be used when dealing with national government agencies, local government units, government-owned or -controlled corporations, government financial institutions, and the private sector. 

The law lays out specific transactions that the ID can be used for: 

  • Applying for social welfare and benefits
  • Applying for services offered by the GSIS, SSS, PhilHealth, Pag-Ibig, and other government agencies
  • Applying for passport and driver’s licenses
  • Tax-related transactions
  • Registration and voting identification purposes
  • Applying for schools, colleges, universities, and other learning institutions
  • Applying for employment and other related transactions 
  • Opening bank accounts and other transactions with banks and financial institutions
  • Verifying criminal records and clearances
  • Other transactions defined in the implementing rules and regulations (IRR)

What information will be collected?

Information to be collected under the Philippine Identification System includes demographic data such as full name, sex, date of birth, place of birth, blood type, address, and citizenship. Marital status, mobile numbers, and email addresses are optional. 

Biometric information will also be recorded, including front-facing photograph, full set of fingerprints, and iris scan. Other identifiable features may be collected if necessary.  

An identification card called PhilID will also be issued under the new system. This physical card will bear the information such as a person’s unique PSN, full name, blood type, date of birth, place of birth, address, and front-facing photograph. Marital status is also optional.  

A person applying to be part of the PhilSys needs to present a birth certificate. Resident aliens, meanwhile, will need certification of their status. Additional documents may be requested upon assessment.

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Who will handle my data?  

The Philippine Statistics Authority (PSA) is the main implementing agency of the national ID system. It will maintain and secure all the information collected from all Filipinos and registered aliens in the country. 

According to the law, the PSA will be assisted in technical aspects by the Department of Information and Communications Technology (DICT). It can also adopt “new but more effective” technology that can help in the registration, authentication, and security of all data. 

A PhilSys Policy and Coordination Council (PPCC) will also be established to formulate policies “to ensure effective coordination and implementation” of the PhilSys. The council will be composed of representatives from different government agencies including the Department of Budget and Management, Department of Foreign Affairs (DFA), Department of Social Welfare and Development (DSWD), among others. 

How secure will my data be? 

The law explicitly states that there are only two ways by which the registered information can be accessed or used: if the registered individual gives consent or if there is a court order issue in the interest of public health or safety.  

When the information about a certain individual needs to be released, the registered person will be notified of the disclosure within 72 hours. The existence of the Data Privacy Act of 2012 also reinforces the state’s “commitment” to having a legal recourse in the event of violation of one’s privacy.

Laguna 3rd District Representative and co-author Sol Aragones assured the public that the PSA will keep the vital information secure.

May mga safeguards na nagsasabi na masesecure ang data (There are safeguards that will ensure that the data is secure),” she told Rappler on Tuesday, June 5, adding that implementing rules and regulations (IRR), which will be released 30 days after the law is signed by Duterte, will spell out more as to how the agency will secure the data.  

The National Privacy Commission (NPC), meanwhile, said it intends to build trust with the people by mitigating risks of breaches and leakages and making sure government agencies adhere to the Data Privacy Act.

“Personal data breaches and violations to data subjects’ rights are man-made,” NPC commissioner Raymund Liboro said on May 28. “They can be prevented by building resilience and a culture of privacy and protection with the organization.”

What are the concerns regarding the national ID system? 

While the system has its benefits, data privacy experts worry that several provisions blur the line between what’s appropriate and what may constitute a violation of one’s privacy. (READ: ‘Record history’ casts cloud of doubt on the national ID system)

The inclusion of the so-called “record history” in the law is a cause for concern, according to privacy lawyer Jam Jacob, legal and policy adviser of technology and rights advocacy group Foundation for Media Alternatives (FMA). 

The record history, as defined in the law, refers to details of authentication requests made whenever a government-issued identification card is used in any transaction by a registered individual.

Jacob warned that maintaining a record history may pave the way for “dataveillance.” (READ: What you need to know about state surveillance)

“It can result in a centralized file that will give a detailed history of an individual’s activities over an extended period,” Jacob said. “That essentially makes it a comprehensive surveillance system.”

Data privacy lawyer Cecilia Soria, meanwhile, pointed out that the national ID system is not the only way to improve government services. The proponents should also look into their inefficiencies, she added. – Rappler.com

Jodesz Gavilan

Jodesz Gavilan is a writer and researcher for Rappler and its investigative arm, Newsbreak. She covers human rights and also hosts the weekly podcast Newsbreak: Beyond the Stories. She joined Rappler in 2014 after obtaining her journalism degree from the University of the Philippines.