The aim of the SIM registration law is to stop scams and cybercrimes but implementation woes have turned the regulation into the subject of jokes and another way to scam people.

Let’s begin with how criminals use the new law to commit fraud. There are persons going around houses reportedly identifying themselves as telco employees and carrying forms for mobile phone owners to register with them for P300 each as a fee. That’s according to one online report. Another scam tells GCash users their accounts are restricted until they register their numbers and users are sent an unauthorized link to type in their details. Scammers then gain access to the accounts.

The first few days of the law’s implementation also triggered funny congratulatory messages on social media posted by those who completed their SIM registration despite glitches in the registration process. The messages congratulated users like they have graduated from college as some posed with their diplomas or graduation toga but the text said it was for completing their SIM registration.

SIM stands for subscriber identity or identification module, a removable card inside your mobile phone containing information such as the network, telephone number, preferences and other data. The law requires mobile phone users to register their own SIMs by April 26, 2023.

How the law came about shows us that its authors wanted a way to stop online scams and other cybercrimes by removing the cover of anonymity of mobile phone users. But critics of the law said the requirement of SIM registration would not stop cybercriminals as there is a need for measures beyond registration to stop these illegal acts. Moreover, critics said the law could only lead to privacy violations as the telecommunications companies will have all data, including identification cards, of users.

It’s too late to be airing these criticisms as the law is in effect and the implementing rules and regulations are guiding telcos in the registration process. There apparently was not enough deliberation on the law, or the legislators did not listen to opposing views as these complaints continued to crop up, or there was a lack of preparation before implementation, resulting in glitches.

Republic Act 11934, or the “Subscriber Identity Module Registration Act,” is in effect and the telcos and government agencies have to go after scammers to make an example of them to prove the effectiveness of the law.

Government offices tasked by the law are the National Telecommunications Commission, Department of Information and Communications Technology, Department of Trade and Industry and the National Privacy Commission.

These agencies and the telcos now have the burden of easing the anxiety of people about the ineffectiveness of poor legislation, the violation of their privacy and the inability of regulators to go after cybercriminals.