THE Senate of the Philippines and the House of Representatives both ratified the bicameral version of the proposed Subscriber Identity Module (SIM) Registration Act on Wednesday, Sept. 28, 2022.

This means the bill can now be sent to President Ferdinand Marcos Jr. for signing into law.

In a Facebook post, House Speaker Martin Romualdez expressed hope that this would be the first law signed by Marcos under his administration.

Sen. Grace Poe, chairperson of the Senate contingent to the Bicameral Conference Committee, said they had harmonized the disagreeing provisions of Senate Bill 1310 and House Bill 14 known as the SIM Registration Act.

Among the “reconciled” provisions of the measure:

*The term “card” from the bill will be dropped considering that the innovation on mobile technology is fast-paced and the law must be able to accommodate all present and future variations of SIMs;

*Registration goes directly through the telecommunications firms’ platform as a prerequisite to the activation of a SIM, noting that it poses less risk of data breach and places less burden on small-scale resellers who may not have the proper training to handle personal information;

*180-day period of registration of a SIM by a minor through a parent or guardian;

*The data of existing postpaid subscribers should already be included in the SIM register to ease the process;

*Telco firms should establish the necessary registration facilities in remote areas within 60 days from the effectivity of the Act.

Poe said they made a few modifications to ensure that the SIM registration process is clearly outlined and seamless, inclusive and accessible, and tourism and business environment-friendly.

She said they clarified the documentary requirements for foreign nationals who purchase local SIMs.

Poe said they also added extra measures in the confidentiality clause such as ensuring that the court order for disclosure is only upon finding of probable cause.

“Mr. President, today we finally send a clear reply to these scam and spam messages-- ‘Stop’ under pain of penalty. As the text capital of the world, we hold precious our means to communicate, and anyone who abuse or misemploy the system for their own fraudulent and unlawful interests must be traceable and subsequently held accountable,” she said in her speech.

Earlier, the Senate had unanimously approved Senate Bill 1310, which aims to curb crimes committed in the country through mobile phone. It was the first legislative measure passed by the upper chamber in the 19th Congress.

The measure aims to regulate the registration and use of SIMs by mandating subscribers to register with telecommunication entities before SIMs are activated. Existing subscribers must also register or risk deactivating or retiring their SIMs.

Subscriber’s information includes full name, date of birth and address of end-users. Valid government-issued identification cards to verify their identity is also needed.

SB 1310 also prohibits “spoofing,” or transmitting misleading or inaccurate information about the source of phone call or text messages to defraud, cause harm, or wrongfully obtain anything of value.

The bill also penalizes the sale of stolen SIMs.

“We have now in our hands the means to unmask criminals who have been hiding for so long under the protection of anonymity, and to bring them to justice,” Poe said.

“This law will help our security services track down criminals and possible terrorist threats by using unregistered numbers to do their dirty work,” Senate President Juan Miguel Zubiri added.

PLDT, Smart

On Wednesday, PLDT’s wireless unit Smart Communications Inc. reiterated its support for the government’s consumer protection initiatives, including the mandatory registration of SIM cards.

In a statement, Alfredo S. Panlilio, PLDT Inc. and Smart president and chief executive officer, said they welcomed “any opportunity to support the legislative process and contribute to the crafting of the bill’s implementing rules and regulations.”

He said Smart and parent company PLDT had been actively working with government and regulators to protect consumers.

To address smishing attacks, Smart has also intensified its efforts against malicious text messages that seek to defraud mobile phone users. Smart has blocked SIMs that send “smishing” messages as well as the Uniform Resource Locators (URL) linked to these illegal activities.

“PLDT and Smart invested nearly P3 billion in cybersecurity infrastructure in 2021 to safeguard the public against emerging cyberthreats, vulnerabilities and other online criminal activities,” Smart said.

Globe

Telecommunications company Globe Telecom also assured the public that it is doing what it can to protect consumers from cybercrimes and online and text scams.

Rofil Sheldon Magto, corporate communications manager of Globe for the Visayas and Mindanao, said the company spent more than US$20 million or roughly P1.1 billion to wrap up its information security platforms.

These include detecting and blocking scams and spam messages of international and domestic sources, including app-to-person and person-to-person SMS.

Magto said that from January to July this year, Globe had blocked around 784 million scam and spam messages in its system through its intensified filtering efforts.

Within the same period, Globe also deactivated 14,058 scam-linked mobile numbers and blacklisted 8,973 more.

To fight the problem, GCash rejects or proactively bars accounts detected to be used for mule activity. It has blocked 780,000 accounts due to identity fraud including money mule issues since January this year.

Magto said they had deployed 100 personnel in their Security Operations Center to monitor all fraudulent acts of scams 24/7. He noted that most of the malicious messages and culprits of identity theft come from prepaid SIMs.

Magto also expressed concern that scammers are even taking advantage of less fortunate individuals and luring them with money through their fraudulent activities.

“There are also groups of people who go to impoverished areas and take advantage of the plight of our fellowmen,” said Magto.

“They buy information and ask them to register. If they go through the proper registration process and their accounts are considered valid, biglang iba na yung naghahawak ng account nila nuh (suddenly, someone else is handling their account),” Magto added.

Magto encouraged the public to disregard malicious text and online messages and not be enticed, especially by those offering ways to get extra income or easy money.

He asked people to block and report such to their emergency hotline and Stop Spam web portal. https://www.globe.com.ph/stop-spam.html

Earlier, the National Bureau of Investigation (NBI) said fraudsters had recently used popular e-wallets and other online messaging platforms, including Globe’s GCash, to get the names of subscribers in their latest scams.

Magto said GCash had blocked 900,000 fraudulent accounts from January 2021 to March 2022 and helped in arresting the scammers.

Magto said Globe also supports the mandatory registration of all postpaid and prepaid mobile phone SIM cards. (CTL, SunStar Philippines)