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MAPping the Future

Remaining issues with the proposed national ID

The Senate recently approved Senate Bill No. 1738, or “An Act Establishing the Philippine Identification System,” while the House also reportedly approved a similar measure.

Debates for or against national ID have been going on for decades, but these are the facts:


Around 100 countries had enacted laws making identity cards compulsory under varying circumstances, according to a 1996 publication by Privacy International.

The Philippines, United Kingdom, United States, Canada and some other countries, are among those without identity cards.


There had been attempts to establish a national ID system in the Philippines which, for one reason or another, failed.

Two major issues remain, which we hope President Duterte would consider before enacting this bill into law: The card is the only mandated medium for the national ID. There is no provision for protection against abuse or misuse of the national ID.

Medium for national ID should be open Section 7, paragraph c of the Senate Bill, states that “the PhilID Card shall be the medium,” thus limiting the medium to a card, most likely with a chip and the necessary security features.

In my opinion, the card is not the best medium for the national national ID for the following reasons:

It would be a very expensive proposition. My guess is that a sophisticated card with chip and security features would probably cost about $5 each, or about $500 million for a population of 100 million.

Protection vs abuse or misuse

In India, the ID is the number, not the card. The identity number is printed on a paper document known as Aadhaar card, which number can be verified online.


The best location for biometrics would probably be in a mobile phone (in a secure element, like the SIM or SD card) for two reasons:

(a) the biometrics can be matched (a). against a person through the phone’s camera for face, iris, or gait; its scanner for fingerprint; or its microphone for voice; and

(b) the biometrics can be authenticated online with the official data base anytime provided there is network connection.

Best of all, keeping the medium for national ID open will probably encourage the banks and the telephone operators to provide the medium for the national ID for free or through shared costs provided they can share in the authentication revenues.

Section 17 of the bill, or “Protection against Unlawful Disclosure of Information/Records,” is good, but paragraph b should be removed because an individual’s consent or a court order to access private information should be sufficient to protect public health or safety.

There should be a specific provision to protect the people from abuse or misuse of national ID, such as:
Deprivation of social benefits and services due to lack of national ID;

Using the national ID for profiling or surveillance of people, especially the vulnerable ones;

Using the national ID to restrict movement or assembly of people;

Breach of the data base.;


The national ID must be used for the common good without violating our basic rights. Moreover, technology now allows the use of various media for national ID which could be more advantageous to the users.

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TAGS: An Act Establishing the Philippine Identification System, national ID, Senate Bill No. 1738
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