Lacson bill requires prepaid SIM card registration to stop scams, crimes

With the growing popularity of smart mobile devices such as phones, tablets and watches comes the risk of text-based and online scams, some of which may allow an attacker to steal a user’s identity and commit crimes in his or her name.

To fight this, Sen. Panfilo M. Lacson filed a bill requiring the registration of prepaid subscriber identity modules (SIMs) dubbed the “Prepaid Subscriber Identity Module (SIM) Cards Regulations Act of 2016.”

“Possession of the most modern technology comes with tremendous responsibility. A mechanism must be put in place to ensure its effective use for the good of all while preventing its illegal or malicious use to benefit a few. Towards this end, the State shall regulate the use and sale of pre-paid SIM cards for users of cellular phones and other mobile devices only to persons who shall comply with the requirements herein set forth,” Lacson said in Senate Bill 252

[Download: Senate Bill 252, Prepaid SIM Cards Regulations Act of 2016]

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Lacson added that while the pre-paid SIM is easily accessible and can be bought almost everywhere, the owners can potentially evade detection. However, this opens the door to unscrupulous individuals to commit criminal activities “to the detriment not only of a particular interest but that of the whole nation.”

“Every new technology carries with it tremendous responsibility. The technology should be used for the advancement of the interest of all and not only of a chosen few. It therefore becomes our imperative duty as lawmakers to ensure that the benefits we derive from this technology should be used properly and not abused by some segments of our society,” he added.

The bill, based on an earlier proposed measure filed by Lacson, requires persons who want to use prepaid SIM cards to fill up a registration form providing their name and the phone number of the prepaid SIM card. Buyers must present valid government documents such as passports, or school or company IDs with photos.

Dealers and telecommunications service providers who sell the SIM cards must maintain records of the names and other data of all persons who purchased the cards.

If a prepaid SIM card is used in an illegal or criminal activity, law enforcement agencies may retrieve information from the database – but only with a written court order.

Such court orders should specify the name of the law enforcement agency and/or officer authorized to look into the database of the telecommunications service provider; ask the telecommunications service provider to furnish the information requested; and direct the law enforcement agency and/or officer to use the information obtained in accordance with the written application.

The court order shall specify the name of the law enforcement agency and/or officer authorized to look into the database; instruct the telecommunications service provider to furnish the information requested; and direct the law enforcement agency and/or officer to use the information obtained in accordance with the written application.

It must also specify the period of the written order, which shall not exceed 30 days.

For its part, the telecommunications service provider shall furnish a copy of the records to the National Telecommunications Commission and the Bureau of Internal Revenue.

Dealers who fail to comply will face a fine of P25,000 for the first offense, P50,000 for the second offense, and P100,000 for the third offense. On the third offense, the president, general manager or other responsible officer of the dealership may also face imprisonment of six months to four years, while the dealership license may be canceled.

Failure to keep a record may mean imprisonment of 31 days to six months, or a fine of P50,000 on responsible officers of the dealership.

Imprisonment of four to six years or a fine of P50,000 will be imposed on any employee of the dealership or the telecommunications service provider who shall reveal the name of the registered owner of a prepaid SIM card.

A similar penalty awaits any employee of the telecommunications service provider who refuses the law enforcement agency or officer access to information despite a written order from a competent court.

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