Lacson seeks easier transactions, better fight vs crime with National Reference System bill

The public may soon have an easier time transacting with the Philippine government with the establishment of a National Reference System, as provided for in Senate Bill 41, filed by Sen. Panfilo M. Lacson.

Lacson noted it is becoming growingly impractical for a person to remember various numbers issued by government agencies, such as tax identification, student, passport, and government and social security numbers.

Also, Lacson – who headed the Philippine National Police from 1999 to 2001 – said a National Reference System can help government law enforcers deter criminality and terrorism by facilitating the processes of apprehension and prosecution. 

[Download: Senate Bill 41: National Reference System Act of 2016]

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“In the Philippines, experience tells us how the public suffers constant delays and inconveniences in availing of basic public services and social security benefits due to inefficient and unreliable means of identifying the beneficiaries. Moreover, the quantum leaps in the tides of criminality and the continuing challenge of terrorism have rendered the need for a national identification system more urgent than ever,” he said.

Under the proposed measure, a National Reference System shall be created to record and provide a single official identification for all citizens and foreign residents of the Philippines. The system shall assign a national reference number to each citizen and foreign resident, together with a national reference card.

The Philippine Statistics Authority shall issue a unique national reference number to each individual, and the reference card shall be tamper-proof. The system will set up a registry where records and information about individuals are collected and stored.

Information in the National Reference Card will include the Reference Number, full name, permanent address, date and place of birth, signature, the photograph of the individual, blood type, and next of kin of the owner. It should be capable of storing the biometric data of the individual.

“The Card shall serve as the only official identification of the person to whom it is issued and shall be valid, accepted and honored, upon presentation, in any transaction requiring the identity, status, birth and other personal circumstance,” Lacson said in his bill.

Also, the card shall be renewed upon reaching the age of 18 and every five years thereafter, without cost. The card shall be surrendered upon renewal. A new card should be issued within one month after registration or renewal.

Meanwhile, the national registry shall be under the authority of the PSA, which shall adopt a stringent procedure of access control, including but not limited to passwords and/or biometrics, with audit trails capability at all levels of access.

Citizens or nationals of foreign countries residing in the Philippines are covered by the system and will be assigned a number and card. But an accredited official of a foreign government recognized by the Republic of the Philippines, or member of his/her official staff and family, shall not be required to have an identification card.

No fee shall be collected during enrollment, registration, issuance and renewal or replacement of the reference card except when the loss of the card is due to the fault of the holder. A card owner must report loss or theft to the PSA within 24 hours.

Data confidentiality

All information collected and stored in the system shall remain confidential, with data disseminated only when the owner of the information expressly authorizes, in writing, the disclosure; a competent court orders it; or if it is in the interest of public health or safety.

Even then, the disclosure shall only cover specifically identified requested information and shall not pertain to the whole record.

Penalties

A person who fails to apply for and secure a National Reference Card shall be liable to pay a fine of P300,000. One who refuses to accept, acknowledge and/or recognize the card as the only official identification of the holder/possessor thereof shall be liable to a fine of P500,000.

One who submits a fictitious name or false information in application, or engages in unauthorized printing, preparation or issuance of a National Reference Card faces three to six years’ imprisonment and a fine of P1 to 3 million.

A similar penalty awaits the unauthorized possession of a National Reference Card, and the willful transfer of the National Reference Card or the Reference Number to any other person.

One who accesses the system without authority or willfully discloses data or information in violation of the act faces jail of six to 10 years, and a fine of P3 to 5 million. Those who profited financially from accessing, disclosing or using the data or information, should also pay twice the amount gained from such an act.

Malicious disclosure or processing of data or information by officials, employees or agents tasked with maintaining the integrity of the system shall be penalized by 10 to 15 years’ jail and a fine of P5 to 10 million.

Officials, employees or agents who have the responsibility of maintaining the integrity of the system face three to six years’ jail and a fine of P1 to 3 million if they allow access to the system or processing of any data without authority, through negligence.

“In all instances, if the violation was committed by a government official or employee, the penalty shall include perpetual absolute disqualification from holding any public office or employment in the government, including any Government-Owned and/or Controlled Corporations (GOCCs), and their subsidiaries,” the bill said.

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