Security vs privacy | Inquirer Business
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Security vs privacy

/ 05:04 AM September 12, 2017

Among last week’s developments that has yet to impact the market is the House of Representatives’ approval of the bill for the establishment of a national identification (ID) system.

House Bill No. 5060, or the proposed Filipino Identification System Act, got 142 affirmative votes, with only seven against. A similar version is now pending before the Senate’s committee on justice and human rights.

The idea of a national identification system first emerged during the martial law years. Then President Ferdinand E. Marcos issued Presidential Decree No. 278 to ensure national security while harmonizing all government-issued identification systems into one reference card. The fundamental ground offered then was to provide convenience in the transaction of official business with government and private offices.


The idea died before it could take off with the fall of the Marcos regime.


Former President Fidel E. Ramos made another attempt during his term of office. He issued Administrative Order No. 308, which called for the adoption of a national computerized ID system in order “to facilitate transactions with basic services and social security providers and other government instrumentalities.”

This was contested and the Supreme Court nullified the order because “it encroached on Congress’ right to legislate.”

Former President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo attempted a different tack. She issued Executive Order No. 420 “requiring all government agencies and government-owned and -controlled corporations to streamline and harmonize their identification systems.”

The EO was upheld by the high court. It pointed out that the order “applied only to government agencies” and the issuance of ID cards is part of the functions of government and is within the power of the President.

As such, the idea did not again materialize. The scheme fell short of becoming a national ID system. It excluded or failed to cover all other Filipino citizens and foreign nationals living in the country.

Pros and cons

Terrorism has become more ferocious following the September 11, 2001 attacks in the United States. Since then, it has spread across Europe, to parts of Asia, specifically in Mindanao.


Along with rising criminality, advocates claim the havoc brought by both is enough justification for the adoption of a national ID system. They said the system can help government determine quickly the status of individuals and weed out those with false identification and false intentions.

On everyday life undertakings, a national ID card could obviate the worries and problems of presenting the “valid IDs” required in order to consummate transactions with government and private sector.

Yet, those against the idea find the program’s feasibility a problem. They insist that it would be difficult to ensure that all of the country’s population would register. The case of vagabonds is one example.

The cost of a tamper-proof ID is also expensive. Note that it would need trained people to distribute them too.

Most important of all, it has a high potential for abuse, i.e. invasion of privacy. Unscrupulous individuals could use the national ID system to fleece other people while government officials could use it as an effective weapon against their critics, even those with legitimate grievances.

Bottom line spin

The national ID card approved by the House of Representatives ordered that it “shall bear the cardholder’s photo, name, signature, birth date, gender, date of issue, serial number.” It also declared that it should “have such other data that may be deemed necessary by the Philippine Statistics Authority.”

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The added clause is the present cause of big concern by those against the idea. Proponents, on the other hand, cite that we have the Data Privacy Act of 2012, which could serve to protect individual privacy.

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