During the infancy of mobile communications here in the Philippines, the phrase “Hu yu?” (who you) in the characteristic truncated text message came into common use as a simple and easy way to establish the identity of a text sender whose number is not familiar to the receiving person.
With the advent of more powerful smartphones that allow apps to simultaneously transmit voice and video messages, the use of such text message is gradually fading into oblivion.
However, the underlying principle of establishing the bona fides of a person remains an increasingly vital concern, particularly in the rapidly evolving digital world. That is in fact among the principal rationale for the Philippine Identification System Act that President Duterte signed into law on Monday.
The new law creates the Philippine ID System or PhilSys which is a centralized database for vital information on all Filipinos as well as resident aliens in the Philippines.
A national ID card will be issued to each person who will also get a unique, randomly generated permanent ID number known as Common Reference Number.
The national ID will require personal data, including name, sex, date and place of birth, address and biometric information such as fingerprints.
PhilSys has the twin purpose of facilitating and improving the delivery of government services to the people and reducing fraud that results in wastage of government funds.
Among other things, the new system would do away with the hassle of having to present several ID in conducting official transaction not only in government offices but also in private entities such as banks.
In addition, PhilSys can be an effective tool to fight criminality and address the increasingly growing threat of terrorism.
However, several leftist lawmakers have voiced vigorous opposition to the national ID system.
For instance, Bayan Muna partylist raised the consistent leftist line that it could be used in silencing critics of the administration and may be a possible threat to privacy.
“We believe that the national ID system is not the solution to, again, the failure or problem in the delivery of social services, even on the issue to deter the commission of crimes and even acts of terrorism,” Bayan Muna said.
Kabataan partylist had also raised practically the same concern earlier, saying the national ID system is “additional ammunition for the Duterte administration which likes to silence critics, trample on human rights and criminalize dissent.”
Such inane objections reflect not only the paranoia but also the obsolete thinking common to the leftist lawmakers.
How such ID system, which includes only information readily available in the database of the National Statistics Authority and other government institutions that gather personal data, can be used to muzzle dissent and trample on the right of the critics of the administration taxes the imagination.
Citizens who have nothing to hide have nothing to fear about the new ID system.
Conversely, those who have something to conceal are likely to be concerned about it.
The only real issue that may be raised against the ID system is the protection against data theft, particularly with the breach of the Commission on Elections database shortly before the 2016 elections where personal data of millions of Filipino voters were uploaded on the Internet.
But the lawmakers have obviously learned from that painful lesson as the law provides stringent safeguards to ensure data protection in accordance with the Data Privacy Act of 2012.
While Bayan Muna and Kabataan raised a howl against possible government abuse of the national ID system, they have liberally provided information on themselves in their existing social media accounts, Facebook in particular.
This, despite the fact that FB has suffered from data breach recently which compromised the integrity of the personal information of an estimated 120 million users around the world.
Their social media accounts would be a much simpler way to gather data that can be used against them than trying to skirt the intricate legal and technical barriers protecting the information contained in the national ID system.
Objections the Left have raised to the national system are like drums: they generate a lot of noise but mostly hollow inside.