The new Filipino identification system

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President Rodrigo Roa Duterte last week signed the Philippine Identification System (PhilSys) Act, the national ID system that will unify and simplify national government ID.

This law forms part of the common legislative agenda of the Legislative-Executive Development Advisory Council (LEDAC) and will establish a single national identification system that will promote good governance, enhance governmental transactions and create a more conducive environment for trade and commerce to thrive through a single ID that will be issued to all citizens and resident aliens. This will not just enhance administrative governance but also reduce corruption, curtail bureaucratic red tape, promote the ease of doing business, but also avert fraudulent transactions, strengthen financial inclusion and create a more secure environment for our people.

For ordinary Filipinos, the implementation of PhilSys means we will no longer have to present multiple identification cards just to prove we are who we say we are. We would not carry all our government-issued ID to do banking transactions, renew our passport or driver’s license just to show proof of identification.

We consider the new national ID as pro-poor. It is a given fact that many of our countrymen could not present ID in their government and private dealings as they could not afford the cost of procuring one.

No less than the Bangko Sentral ng Pilipinas (BSP), in its latest study, said that the absence of a mechanism such as the national ID system has been detrimental to the financial inclusion thrust of the government. Only 22.6 percent of Filipinos have access to formal banks and non-bank financial institutions. The BSP further cites the lack of a national ID system as one of the causes of decline in loan disbursements by formal financial institutions the previous year. With the national ID system in place, all these problems have already been resolved. Filipinos will now have easier access to financial services such as debit, credit, loans, investments and insurance by having a National ID.

Several administrations already had tried to implement this very important measure but they failed, partly because of the apprehensions of some groups about privacy and data security. However, people need not fear about their personal info being unknowingly accessed by the government as safety measures have been put in place. There are only three instances that government agencies can access the information to be tabulated by the Philippine Statistics Authority (PSA) into the ID — if there is a court order, if there is consent from the owner or if there is a compelling public interest on health and safety.

Moreover, the PSA will work closely with the National Privacy Commission, the Department of Information and Communications Technology and the multi-agency PhilSystem Policy and Coordination Council to address all concerns pertaining to privacy and security.

Only 13 sets of information will be included in the ID card: the bearer’s unique PhilSys number, full name, sex, blood type, date of birth, place of birth, marital status, address and a front-facing photo. To be clear, information that will be included in the Phil-ID will not be any different from the information already in the possession of the PSA, SSS or GSIS, PhilHealth, Pag-IBIG Fund, COMELEC and other agencies that gather personal data.

Justice Secretary Menardo Guevarra, in fact, echoed the same sentiments as he assured the public that information to be stored in the national identification system will remain inaccessible to anyone except under the three exceptions. He also said that by virtue of this national ID system, identity theft will be prevented, hence it would be hard to commit crimes and acts of terrorism since it will be easy to track down, identify and locate suspects.

There is therefore no basis at all for the apprehensions about the Phil-ID, unless of course that fear is based on anything that borders to illegal. The Phil-ID will even aid in our drive against the social menaces of poverty, corruption and criminality.

In fact, majority of Filipinos – 73 percent – approve of having a national ID system in the country, as shown in the recent Social Weather Stations survey. Three of five respondents also say the PhilSys will be a big help to them, while 61 percent trust that the government will protect their private information contained in the ID.

A pro-poor and pro-Filipino identification system will make life much easier for our countrymen. I look forward to having my very own Phil-ID very soon.

p: wjg

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