Starting yesterday, Dec. 27, 2022, all users of Subscriber Identity Module (SIM) cards — or smart cards that store identification information that pinpoint a smartphone to a specific mobile network — were required to register such numbers. Public telecommunication entities (PTEs) are required to establish secure online SIM registration platforms for this purpose.
Starting Dec. 27, 2022, all new SIMs will be deactivated and only activated after the user completes the registration process.
Republic Act No. 11934, commonly known as the SIM Registration Act, makes it easier for law enforcement agencies to pinpoint any individual engaging in cybercrime or similar illegal activities, thereby making it easier to investigate and prosecute the offender.
SIM registration involves attaching an individual’s personal information to a SIM card. A database containing SIM owners with unique identifiers can make it easier for authorities to track someone behind any suspicious or criminal activity.
SIM users, both for physical and embedded SIMs, are required to register until June 22, 2023. They must register existing SIMs within this period to avoid the deactivation of the SIM, but if they are unable to register with a valid reason, they could ask the DICT for an extension. Once approved, they will have until Oct. 20, 2023, to complete the registration process.
Recall that the clamor for the enactment of a SIM registration law was prompted by law enforcement authorities who noted an upsurge in scams and cybercrimes perpetuated through the use of burner phones, inexpensive mobile phones designed for temporary, sometimes anonymous, use, after which these may be discarded. Burners are purchased with prepaid minutes and without a formal contract with a communications provider. Prepaid phone users pay only for the services they plan on using, and could easily discard such phones. Hence, this was deemed inimical to public safety and needed to be placed under closer law enforcement monitoring.
Postpaid mobile phone users, on the other hand, are specifically identified, as they pay for services used during a monthly billing cycle. They are registered as PTE subscribers. The new law still requires postpaid subscribers to validate and update their registered personal data. This will be done online and facilitated by their respective PTEs.
Since the announcement on SIM registration, Manila Bulletin’s Technology section has responded to frequently asked questions (FAQs). Most of these questions reflect concerns on privacy and confidentiality. The SIM Registration Act reiterates the government’s commitment to guarantee both privacy and confidentiality of information. Fines ranging from not less than ₱500,000 to not more than ₱4 million shall be imposed on telecommunications companies for breach of confidentiality. No leak on SIM registration information will be coming from government as it will not keep such data.
Sale or transfer of a registered SIM is also strictly regulated; violations are punishable with imprisonment ranging from six months to six years, or a fine ranging from ₱100,000 to ₱300,000, or both, would be meted out against violators of the rules on registration.
Hopefully, the SIM Registration Act will severely curtail, if not totally eliminate, misdemeanors or crimes attributable to the use of previously unregulated mobile phones.