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SIM card registration needed amid disinformation on Taal eruption

Senator Win Gatchalian underscores the need for a SIM card registration law as a way of running after perpetrators of hoax messages on mobile phones in relation to the Taal disaster.


TALISAY, BATANGAS, Philippines – A resort personnel tends the calm shoreline along Taal Lake in this quaint town that lies on the northern edge of Taal Volcano’s 14-kilometer danger zone, 29 Dec 2012 file image. The Philippine Institute of Volcanology and Seismology (PHIVOLCS) repeatedly flagged the spread of false and unverified information relating to Taal Volcano’s unrest, prompting Senator Win Gatchalian to assert anew mandatory registration for prepaid SIM cards to easily track down perpetrators of fake news. Photo by Mark Cayabyab/OS WIN GATCHALIAN

Gatchalian pointed out how the Philippine Institute of Volcanology and Seismology (PHIVOLCS) repeatedly flagged the spread of false and unverified information, which causes public panic and confusion. According to the lawmaker, mandatory registration for prepaid SIM cards will make it easier for authorities to track the perpetrators of fake news and make them accountable for their actions.

“Nakita natin nitong mga nakaraang araw na habang nagsisikap tayong panatilihing ligtas ang ating mga kababayan, may ilan namang sadyang nagpapakalat ng maling impormasyon na lalo namang nagiging sanhi ng kalituhan at pag-aalala”, said Gatchalian.

“Nakakabahala at kailangan nating aksyunan ang mga bagay na tulad nito,” he added.

Gatchalian cited Republic Act 10639 or the Free Mobile Disaster Alerts Act which imposes a fine of up to P10,000 and imprisonment of up to six months for persons who spread false or misleading data or information in times of calamities.

Last year, Gatchalian filed Senate Bill 176 or the Subscriber Identity Module (SIM) Card Registration Act. Under the proposed measure, end users of prepaid SIM cards shall be required to present a valid ID and sign a control-numbered registration form issued by the service provider of the purchased SIM card. Copies of the accomplished forms shall be furnished to the same service provider and the National Telecommunications Commission.

In filing the bill, Gatchalian lamented the unabated rate by which SIM cards flood markets, which he called a magnet for nefarious and illegal activities from untraceable numbers. Gatchalian also took note that SIM card registration is mandatory in countries like Singapore, Malaysia, Indonesia, and Brunei.

“Kung maisasabatas ang ating panukala sa pagpaparehistro sa mga may-ari ng SIM cards, mahahanap at mapapanagot natin ang mga nasa likod ng mga maling impormasyon. Masusugpo din natin ang iba pang mga iligal na gawaing ginagamitan ng mga cellphone,” Gatchalian said.

Meanwhile, he called on the public to be more vigilant on the messages and information they receive concerning Taal Volcano’s activity. He also cited the need to boost digital literacy skills to combat the spread of disinformation.