Lacson files bill requiring prepaid SIM card registration

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A bill by Sen. Panfilo M. Lacson may finally help stop online scams and so-called “Tapon-SIM” crimes where criminals use prepaid SIM cards that can be disposed of to throw law enforcers off their trail.

Senate Bill 25, dubbed the “Prepaid Subscriber Identity Module (SIM) Cards Regulations Act of 2019,” requires the registration of prepaid SIM cards to prevent their illegal or malicious use.

“Not only is this prepaid SIM card easily accessible, i.e., it can be bought almost anywhere, the owners thereof can likewise easily evade detection since prepaid SIM cards are virtually undetectable. Due to this, unscrupulous individuals almost always take advantage of the same in the pursuit of their criminal activities to the detriment not only of a particular interest but that of the whole nation,” Lacson, who as a law enforcer had fought kidnap-for-ransom gangs that used such ‘Tapon-SIM’ tactics, said in his bill.

He said the bill should contribute in one way or another in providing a solution to the recurrent peace-and-order problem.

Lacson stressed every new technology carries with it tremendous responsibility, and the technology should be used for the advancement of the interest of all and not only of a chosen few.

“It therefore becomes our imperative duty as lawmakers to ensure that the benefits we derive from this technology should be used properly and not abused by some segments of our society,” he added.

Under the bill, persons who want to use prepaid SIM cards should fill up a registration form providing their name and the phone number of the prepaid SIM card. Buyers must present valid government documents such as passports, or school or company IDs with photos.

Dealers and telecommunications service providers who sell the SIM cards must maintain records of the names and other data of all persons who purchased the cards.

If a prepaid SIM card is used in an illegal or criminal activity, law enforcement agencies may retrieve information from the database – but only after obtaining a written court order.

Such court orders should specify the name of the law enforcement agency and/or officer authorized to look into the database of the telecommunications service provider; ask the telecommunications service provider to furnish the information requested; and direct the law enforcement agency and/or officer to use the information obtained in accordance with the written application.

The court order shall specify the name of the law enforcement agency and/or officer authorized to look into the database; instruct the telecommunications service provider to furnish the information requested; and direct the law enforcement agency and/or officer to use the information obtained in accordance with the written application.

It must also specify the period of the written order, which shall not exceed 30 days.

For its part, the telecommunications service provider shall furnish a copy of the records to the National Telecommunications Commission and the Bureau of Internal Revenue.

Dealers who fail to comply will face a fine of P25,000 for the first offense, P50,000 for the second offense, and P100,000 for the third offense. On the third offense, the president, general manager or other responsible officer of the dealership may also face imprisonment of six months to four years, while the dealership license may be canceled.

Failure to keep a record may mean imprisonment of 31 days to six months, or a fine of P50,000 on responsible officers of the dealership.

Imprisonment of four to six years or a fine of P50,000 will be imposed on any employee of the dealership or the telecommunications service provider who shall reveal the name of the registered owner of a prepaid SIM card.

A similar penalty awaits any employee of the telecommunications service provider who refuses the law enforcement agency or officer access to information despite a written order from a competent court. SENATE