Senator Win Gatchalian is seeking stiffer penalties against individuals selling registered Subscriber Identity Modules (SIMs) that are eventually used in various cybercrime activities.
The senator made the call following a revelation made by the National Bureau of Investigation (NBI) Cybercrime Division Chief Jeremy Lotoc that registered SIMs are being sold openly on various social media platforms. Further, Lotoc revealed that his team has successfully registered with unnamed telecommunications operators’ SIMs using the photograph of a smiling monkey, which indicates that unscrupulous individuals are able to skirt around the new legislation mandating SIM registration in order to verify identification.
Gatchalian said criminal groups have taken advantage of the fact that registered SIMs are being sold openly. It has accumulated tens of thousands of SIMs which were later used in various investment, cryptocurrency, and love scams. Such groups include those fronting as Philippine Offshore Gaming Operators (POGOs), he surmised.
“The basic objective of the law is that if we register the SIM, there will be accountability meaning you can go after the registered person if needed because the anonymity is creating a lot of problems,” Gatchalian emphasized.
However, the successful registration of a SIM using the photograph of an animal indicates registrants could potentially circumvent the process, requiring stiffer penalties to effectively deter fraudulent registration of SIM cards, Gatchalian said. “Maybe we need to increase the penalties and make them hefty,” he said.
According to Gatchalian, telco providers should also put in place an effective post-validation mechanism to determine the veracity of a SIM user’s details.
“There should be some form of post-validation if it’s not automatic. ‘Yung monkey example is bastusan talaga. There should be at least some form of validation so we can establish who is accountable for that post-validation. We cannot allow horses, monkeys, and gorillas to be registered. We have to do something. If we are not going to do something, this will happen over and over again,” he stressed.
The implementation of Republic Act 11934 or the Subscriber Identity Module Registration Act, the first law signed by President Ferdinand Marcos, Jr., took effect in December last year, mandating all SIM owners to register their mobile phone numbers. The mandatory SIM registration was eventually extended up to July 25 this year. Under the law, those who use fictitious identities or fraudulent documents to register a SIM card will be slapped with a prison sentence ranging from six months to two years and a fine of P100,000 to P300,000.