By Danielle Anne G. Chua

“Hello, nanalo ka ng cellphone! I-click mo ang link para i-claim!”

“Gusto mo bang kumita nang libre sa isang online game? Register na sa website!”

“H3ll0, Tito m0 i2. Ibang number ang gamit qu0h… padalhan m0h nmn 4k0h 5k.. tnx.”

*Unknown number is calling…*

If you try to open your call logs and text messages, it is certain that you see a lot of this random information. You become puzzled and confused about how these unfamiliar phone numbers land in yours. You become worried that you might become a victim of prevalent cybercrimes. Will the SIM Card Registration become the lightbulb moment for this alarming problem…or will it be another bullet to watch out for?

Here is everything that you need to know about the newly signed Republic Act No. 11934.

Past of the act

Right before the specific details are elaborated on this explainer, it is highly important to trace the history of this law. Former President Rodrigo Duterte vetoed the SIM Card Registration Bill last April 2022. The reason was there were details from the said bill, specifically the social media registration that needs more thorough research. 

There were big worries that its unclear measures are prone to state infraction and freedom. 

By the time it got vetoed, acting presidential spokesperson Martin Andanar articulated that the Congress should not lose hope in apprehending online predators and providing a safer online space for Filipinos. 

Gist of the act

Months later, it was finally signed; however, the social media registration is no longer on the plate. It is only the subscriber identity module (SIM) cards that need to be registered.

President Bongbong Marcos successfully signed the law on October 10 as a government-based initiative for cybersecurity or online safety. To give a brief overview, the Republic Act No. 11934 or the SIM Card Registration Act is primarily intended to safeguard citizens against various forms of cybercrimes involving the usage of SIM cards. 

In line with Galvez (2022), the Office of the Press Secretary officer Cheloy Garafil stated that the main objectives of this act come twofold: to help law enforcement officers in reducing cybercrimes in the country and to drive people’s keen responsibility towards their personal usage.

Quick map of registration

You might be surfing the whole internet to know how you will be able to register your SIM cards for work, school, or just for family communication. Worry no more, as the basics can be read in this portion.

Who is eligible to register their SIM Cards?  First, take note that eSIM, postpaid, and prepaid SIM cards are all covered in the act. Following the particular measures, new users are highly required to register their newly acquired SIM cards so they can legally use and activate these for their respective usage. If you already use SIM cards ever since, you are still required to register within 180 days of its enforcement. In fact, foreign nationals living in the Philippines should also do the same. For minors or those who are under legal age, you can accomplish this process using your guardian’s name and consent. The said activation is done through preferred Public Telecommunications Entity (PTE).

Where can you register? As of the current moment, the PTEs are still in the process of creating and organizing an efficient platform for registration.

How will the registration go? According to Geducos (2022), the whole process will be done virtually or online. If you are living near remote and far-flung places, the government shall provide registration equipment ready for use. The free-of-charge SIM card registration also serves as an essential reminder to be vigilant and mindful of scammers who might leech off registration payments. 

Is there a limit on SIM cards that you can register? According to Geducos (2022), the Department of Information and Communications Technology (DICT) Secretary Ivan John Uy reminded that an individual can register any number of SIM cards under their identity — a clear manifestation of not limiting them to just one SIM card.

What are the requirements upon registration? The requirements vary depending on the individual’s status. For the existing and new users, you are required to submit specified information namely full name, birthday, complete address, sex, SIM card information (phone number and serial number). The true copy of documents proving one’s identity such as Driver’s License, School ID for minor-aged registrants, Passport, NBI Clearance, Voter’s ID, TIN ID, Police Clearance, and so forth will also be shown for verification. For foreigners in the country, you are required to lay out personal data, passport number, and any of the following: proof of PH address, passport, Alien Employment Permit, School Registration ID for students, and return/departure tickets for visitors. The validity of tourists’ SIM card registration is only for 30 days.

What needs to be done in unexpected situations involving the SIM? In cases of unwanted and unexpected circumstances particularly the card user’s death, loss of actual SIM cards, deactivation, and changes in one’s personal data, informing the chosen PTE is certainly the key. On the other hand, it has to be taken into account that the PTE will still keep applicable data from the deactivated SIM card for 10 years.

What are the offenses and penalties? According to Dy (2022), one’s nonobservance to the SIM Card Registration accountability, negligence, and confidentiality breaches are some of the violations stated in the law. To make it more specific, you can get apprehended in this act for relevant crimes like faking required documents, stealing someone’s identity for registration, reselling a stolen SIM, selling personal data, and more. For instance, inevitable deactivation is already a clear outcome rooted in an individual’s failure to register their SIM cards with their PTEs. In terms of the financial aspect, the penalties are now ranging from ₱100,000 to ₱1 million — depending on the gravity and extent of the offenses.

Extra: Safeguarding yourself from cybercrimes

‘Think before you click’ has always been the thing, right?

There are simple, effective ways on how to remain safe online. Rojas (2017) then provides some feasible tips written in the following: add to your carts in trusted shopping platforms wisely; avoid using public WiFi in confidential transactions; fact-check the links and files attached in a message; and keep your passwords private and tough to guess. Additionally, if you use social media and online communication platforms, make sure you activate the two-factor authentication for extra security.

It has become a pressing local problem that Filipinos continue to be both perpetrators and victims of fraud, identity theft, scam, voice phishing, and so forth. Although there are already existing efforts and interventions like the SIM Card Registration Act to protect one’s safety in technology-made spaces, the tough reality is that you are also responsible for safeguarding yourself from its danger. 

Make yourself a promise that whenever you encounter suspicious links, unknown phone numbers, and unfamiliar messages, you become the lightbulb moment.