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National ID system

PalabricaTHE HOUSE of Representatives recently approved on third and final reading House Bill No. 5060 (or the proposed Filipino Identification System Act) which requires all Filipinos, whether residing in the Philippines or abroad, to apply for registration and issuance of a national identification card.

The ID card shall bear the cardholder’s photo, name, signature, birth date, gender, date of issue, serial number and such other data that may be deemed necessary by the Philippine Statistics Authority.

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The card, which is required to be made of tamper-proof security material, shall be non-transferable and valid for life.

It may be replaced only (a) when a child becomes of legal age at 18 years old; (b) there is a change in name or family name by virtue of a court order or application of law, such as a woman who adopts her husband’s surname; (c) in case of loss or destruction; and (d) for other revisions deemed necessary by the cardholder, e.g., changes in facial features due to age or medical intervention.

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Filipinos living abroad would have to apply for the card at the Philippine Embassy or consular office nearest to their place of residence.

The card shall be required for all government transactions, such as, application for driver’s license and passport; availment of benefits from the Social Security System (SSS), Government Service Insurance System (GSIS), Philippine Health Insurance Corp. (Philhealth), Home Development Mutual Fund (Pag-ibig), and clearance application with the National Bureau of Investigation, Philippine National Police and the courts.

Legislation

It’s been almost two decades since the government first initiated the establishment of a national ID system.

In 1996, then President Fidel Ramos issued Administrative Order No. 308 adopting a National Computerized Identification System.

Unfortunately, the order was declared unconstitutional by the Supreme Court on the ground that legislative approval is required for the scheme.

Learning from this reversal, then President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo issued Executive Order No. 420 requiring all government agencies and government-owned and -controlled corporations to harmonize their ID systems.

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This time, the program passed muster. The tribunal upheld its validity because it applies only to government agencies that issue ID cards as part of their functions and its issuance is within the power of the president to promulgate.

The order gave rise to the Unified Multi-Purpose ID Card (UMID) that is issued to the members of SSS, GSIS, Philhealth and Pag-ibig.

This “exclusivity” feature has left out millions of Filipinos, i.e., the self-employed, the unemployed, minors and those working abroad, from the coverage of the government ID system.

Identification

The opposition to the proposed national ID revolves principally on the perceived threat to security and violation of privacy by the government’s collection of personal information.

The bill addresses these issues by imposing penal sanctions on the unlawful disclosure of information and records obtained in relation to the application for the ID card.

Admittedly, the proposed ID card is susceptible to abuse or misuse by corrupt government officials or the cardholder himself. And so are many other government licenses, permits or similar documentary issuances.

Even developed countries suffer from the same problem. The only difference is they are able to catch the guilty parties faster and make them pay for their crimes.

There will always be an evil genius who can come up with ways and means to game a government program for selfish purposes. But this fact of life should not paralyze the government to inaction.

To address this issue, the bill provides for sanctions for the misuse or abuse of the ID card system.

Although the security and privacy concerns are valid, we should not lose sight, however, of the benefits or advantages of having a uniform computerized system of identification of Filipino citizens wherever they may be.

Facilitation

At present, the rule of the thumb on identification in public and commercial transactions is the presentation of at least two government-issued ID cards that bear the photo of the cardholder.

Until the UMID card came about, a person’s government-issued ID cards (depending on his livelihood, profession or age) would be any or all of the following: SSS, GSIS, Philhealth, driver’s license, voter’s ID, senior citizen, and Professional Regulation Commission.

For Filipinos who are not qualified to carry any of the ID cards mentioned, the government-issued ID card available to them is the postal ID issued by the Philippine Postal Corp., the former Bureau of Posts, which costs at least P400.

Too bad if the person transacting business can present only one government-issued ID card. He would have to scrounge for another document, for example, a Meralco or PLDT statement of account, to further prove his identity.

The proposed national ID card is aimed at consolidating all government-issued IDs into an integrated and credible identification system. Properly used and bearing the security features to make it tamper proof, this ID card will go a long way in facilitating commercial and government transactions in our country.

With the Lower House’s approval of the bill, the ball is now in the court of the Senate. It can come up with its own version or adopt the bill in all respects to expedite its enactment into law.

Hopefully, the senators will not sit on it and consign it to the legislative dustbin.

For comments, please send your email to “[email protected]

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