In an interview with Super Radyo DZBB today, May 28, Assistant Secretary Edgardo Cabarios of the National Telecommunications Commission (NTC) cited the possibility of telecom companies implementing “voluntarily” SIM card registrations while the law on making it mandatory is not yet in effect.
“Posible na voluntary muna ang registration. Then unti-unti, i-mandate na,” Cabarios said, “Mayroon na po tayong inumpisahang proseso, iyon pong voluntary registration meron na po. At marami po silang mga suggestion at mga concerns dito. Inaaddress po ‘yun kung papaano ipapatupad in the meantime ang voluntary registration.”
Cabarios noted, however, that it could be a legal issue as consumers may challenge telcos attempting to require registration upon purchase. To recall, President Rodrigo Duterte vetoed the SIM Card Registration Act passed by Congress last February 2 mainly due to the inclusion of social media providers in the registration requirement.
Telcos have earlier pledged their support to rework and ensure the passage of the SIM Card Registration Act. Nonetheless, some groups such as Democracy.Net.PH and the Computer Professionals’ Union have opposed the proposed measure as they deem it a threat to “freedom of expression, freedom of association, and personal privacy.”
Cabarios also cited instances which may have opened opportunities for scammers to gain contact details to be targeted, allowing them to continue their operations. At the moment, there are ongoing investigations by the National Privacy Commission (NPC) on data aggregators, which were being linked to the sending of text messages offering spurious job offers and investment schemes, among others.
“‘Yun ho ang kinokontrata ng mga bangko at credit card companies para magpadala ng mga advisory para sa kanilang mga kliyente,” he added, “Ang isa pa pong source niyan is kung mayroong nagpaparaffle.”
According to Business Intelligence, a data aggregator is an organization that “collects data from one or more sources, provides some value-added processing, and repackages the result in a usable form.” Despite the benefits brought by data aggregators, the public policy, research, and advocacy group Bank Policy Institute argues that without adequate safeguards and security standards, data aggregators might pose “potential risks to consumers related to unauthorized data access and potentially fraudulent activity.”
In relation to this, a report by 24 Oras last Friday showed how some scammers seem to be capable of imitating senders which have previously provided one-time passwords (OTP) to subscribers, making it difficult to discern its integrity. According to the Philippine National Police (PNP), 163 cases of text scams have been reported to them since January of this year. Five suspects have been identified and charged thus far.
When asked if ceasing prepaid services would be feasible to implement while SIM card registration is not yet mandatory, he responded, “Marami po tayong mga kababayan na hindi kayang magsubscribe sa postpaid. Kung ipapahinto po natin ang prepaid services, marami po tayong mapre-prejudice.”
According to mobile top-up service firm Ding, 89 percent of Filipinos use prepaid mobile services as of 2021, while 51 percent use two or more prepaid products.
On the issue of fake news, meanwhile, Cabarios clarified that the NTC has no jurisdiction over social media content.
“Ang jurisdiction ng komisyon ay ‘yung sa infrastructure, telecom, at broadcast,” the assistant secretary explained, “Ang content ay nasa ibang agencies po ‘yan. Sa DICT. At kung privacy related naman, sa National Privacy Commission.”