President Ferdinand Marcos Jr. signed the long-controversial SIM card registration law (Republic Act 11934) on October 10, 2022. This is the first legislative measure enacted during his term in office. It requires all SIM card users to register with their mobile operators before their SIM card can be activated. Existing prepaid customers will have to register their SIM card within the next 180 days, otherwise it will get deactivated or put out of service.
Criticism is high as the Computer Professionals’ Union warned that compulsory registration has proven ineffective against crime and instead may threaten people’s data security.
The controversial law was already passed back in February 2022. But former President Rodrigo Duterte vetoed it last April. One of the reasons was that the law also entails compulsory registration for social media accounts.
In other countries such as Brazil or Mexico similar legislation has turned the resulting state surveillance into a major problem. A similar sim card registration law also enabled a hacker attack in Indonesia last August that published ID numbers and phone numbers of at least 1.3 billion SIM registrations.
The law could also make sensitive data of investigative journalists who critical of the government accessible. President Marcos said: “Under my leadership, we will support and protect the rights of the media so they can do their job effectively.” However, the opposite is more evident as the libel case of well-known Maria Ressa shows, the chairperson of the online news agency Rappler. The Court of Appeals rejected her application and that of her Rappler colleague Reynaldo Santos Jr. requesting the reopening of their online libel case on October 10, 2022. In June 2020, the Manila Regional Trial Court (RTC) Branch 46 convicted the two journalists on a charge of online libel filed by businessman Wilfredo Keng.
Photo © Engin Akyurt