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Gatchalian pushes for SIM Card Registration Law to curb SMS bomb threats

Senator Win Gatchalian looks at a reporter’s phone in a light moment during a recent press conference with Senate journalists. Gatchalian said registration of postpaid SIM cards would help curb the increasing number of hoax text messages. (Photo by Mark Cayabyab)

Senator Win Gatchalian urged President Rodrigo Duterte to certify as urgent a measure which mandates the registration of prepaid subscriber identity module (SIM) cards, explaining that this policy would help curb the increasing number of text message bomb threats in recent weeks.

Gatchalian, the author of Senate Bill No. 203, otherwise known as the “SIM Card Registration Act”, further stressed the necessity of his bill as the country remains under a State of National Emergency on account of lawless violence in the wake of the tragic Davao City bombing.

Since the bombing, a slew of bomb scares sent via text message have caused commotions at several schools in densely-populated areas such as Metro Manila and Davao City.

“Mandatory registration of prepaid mobile numbers will discourage ill-willed pranksters and allow us to punish those who currently perpetrate security scares through text message with impunity. More importantly, this measure will empower law enforcement authorities to trace and suppress legitimate terror threats during these uncertain times,” said Gatchalian, a member of the Senate Committee on National Defense and Security.

Under Senate Bill No. 203, all direct sellers of prepaid SIM cards must compel prospective buyers to present a valid photo ID before completing the sale. Meanwhile, current owners of prepaid SIM cards would be mandated to register themselves and their mobile numbers within 180 days from the effectivity of the law.

Existing SIM cards which are not registered within the 180-day period would be automatically scheduled for deactivation.

However, Gatchalian assured the public that their cellular data information would still be kept confidential in accordance with the constitutional right to privacy and applicable laws.

“The information collected under this law will be made available to pertinent government agencies only after the proper legal processes have been followed. What is important here is to have the information readily available, so that law enforcement authorities can respond to imminent security threats swiftly and effectively for the safety and benefit of the general public,” said Gatchalian