National ID System: Boon or Bane?

Maria Romero
PUBLISHED September 10, 2018 08:51 am
Art by Mark Renacido.

In the Philippines, dreaming of a hi-tech universal identification system sounds like a conjured up scenario that can only be seen in first world countries and utopian films. Yet today, we are only a few steps away from it. Appealing, right? But what do we know about it? Are we ready for its full implementation or is it gonna be another poor costly attempt?

What is the National ID System and Why Do We Need It?

The Purpose

Just last August, President Rodrigo Duterte signed into law the Republic Act No 11055 or the Philippine Identification System (PhilSys) Act. This is to finally have our government’s central identification platform that will simplify public and private transactions.

PhilSys will collect personal information of Filipino citizens and resident aliens, and generate a Philippine ID (PhilID) and PhilSys Number (PSN) to authenticate transactions such as applications for school, bank, passport, drivers’ license, voters’ registration, and tax-related transactions.

PhilID and PSN will thus be sufficient enough to prove your identity so the horror of providing multiple IDS in every transaction will finally be over.

According to the law’s proponents, this new authentication system is expected to improve the government’s delivery of services, especially for those who lack government-issued IDs. In fact, lawmakers vowed to get the poorest resident on the map through this measure.

The Details

PhilSys Act mandates that one year after its effectivity, citizens and resident aliens can personally register in these offices:

  • Philippine Health Insurance Corporation

  • PSA Regional Provincial Offices

  • Commission on Elections

  • Home Development Mutual Fund

  • Local Civil Registry Offices

  • Philippine Postal Corporation

  • Social Security System

  • Government Service Insurance System

  • Other agencies that will be assigned by PSA

All Filipinos are targeted to have their assigned permanent ID numbers by 2022. Thus, individuals born after the law takes effect are required to be registered upon birth immediately. And if the person lives abroad, he or she can be registered in the Philippine embassy or any registration center designated by the Department of Foreign Affairs.

The registration process will require birth certificate for citizens and proof of residence for resident aliens. Upon registration, each will be given unique and permanent number and a physical copy of PhilID.

The Philippine Statistics Authority is the agency tasked with the law’s implementation process with the technical assistance of Department of Information and Communications Technology.

Meanwhile, these are the information that you will be asked to provide:

  • Full Name

  • Sex

  • Date of Birth

  • Place of Birth

  • Blood Type

  • Address

  • Whether you are Filipino or Resident Alien

  • Front-facing Photograph

  • Full Set of Fingerprints

  • Iris Scan

  • Other identifiable features as may be determined by the law's implementing rules and regulations

  • Optional information: marital status, mobile number, and email address

One detail that we have to remember is that registration per se is NOT MANDATORY. However, refusing to apply may also mean forfeiture to receive ANY government benefit. You have to choose your battle here.

The Myth-busting

The law imposes penalties of fine and imprisonment for any person who unauthorizedly discloses any PhilSys information. Information may only be uncovered in the matters of public safety and court order. Information owner must, therefore, be notified within 72 hours of the disclosure.

While the new ID system has its benefits, data privacy experts apprehend that there are several blurring provisions that may constitute to the violation of one’s privacy. The inclusion of the “record history” is a major concern of critics because it may pave way for data surveillance or “dataveillance”. Experts say that this will lead to comprehensive tracking of a person's activities over an extended period.

Boon or Bane

In a country like the Philippines where about 7.4 million don’t have even the most basic identity records as per statistics authority, having an integrated ID system is definitely a BOON. According to tech giants like Globe Telecom Inc. and Jack Ma’s Ant Financial, PhilSys can even bring millions of people into formal financial system by 2020. Because other than unifying personal information, this new system will also help people to easily apply for legal financial account.

However, our sluggish technology is the major BANE in this new scheme. As it turns out, it would require us billions-worth of high technology in safekeeping the people’s private data. True enough, biometrics data system isn’t without its watchdogs.

With this end, we can only hope that the power of this new law will only be used for public interest. More importantly, we expect this measure to FINALLY provide legitimate records for those whose identities are not officially documented.

Does this article help you grasp the entirety of PhilSys Act? Share us your thoughts!

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