SIM Card Registration bill vetoed by Pres. Duterte

The SIM Card Registration Act was vetoed last week by President Rodrigo Duterte. This controversial bill sought to mandate the registration of all SIM cards and social media accounts in the country. The latter was a sticking point among netizens who said that it would remove the anonymity that protected them against harassment and trolls—the same trolls the bills purported to protect them against.

Legislators approved the measure earlier this year in an effort to combat online abuse and misinformation, particularly in the run-up to the May 9 national election. However, with Duterte’s veto, the bill is unlikely to pass before the election.

According to Acting Presidential Spokesperson Martin Andanar, the SIM Card Registration bill was vetoed by Duterte after the latter found that “certain aspects of state intrusion, or the regulation thereof, have not been duly defined, discussed, or threshed out in the enrolled bill, with regard to social media registration.”

In addition, Duterte also noted that the inclusion of the requirement for social media registration in the bill “was not part of the original version of the bill and needs a more thorough study.”

“Prior versions only mandated the registration of SIM cards,” stated Andanar.

While originally covering only SIM cards for cellular phones, under later versions of the bill, social media providers would also be required to get users’ real names and phone numbers upon the creation of an account.

While the erstwhile intention of the bill was to protect netizens from trolls and fraud, many groups pointed out that it also put people online at risk. (Read: Fil gamers, freedom groups unite against SIM card registration bill)

One such group, the internet freedom advocacy group Democracy.Net.Ph wrote an open letter addressed to Duterte enumerating the numerous issues with the bill.

“The intent and purpose of trying to eliminate illegal activities enabled by mobile phones, the Internet, or other electronic communication-aided crimes are noble,” read the letter, which was signed by 13 freedom rights groups.

“However, the bill is deeply flawed,” the group argued. “It contains overly vague provisions, violates constitutional guarantees of freedom of expression, freedom of association, personal privacy, and endangers the safety of Filipino citizens and children.”

Meanwhile, members of the local game industry also lent their voices against the bill, noting that many gamers and streamers use screen names to protect themselves from harassment and cyberbullying, keeping their personal information safe.

“For gamers, this is a problem as most of us use pseudonyms,” read a statement by the developers of the indie game Good Knight. “For streamers, our anonymity is something we take seriously.”

Now that Duterte has vetoed the SIM Card Registration act, it looks like gamers, streamers and everyone else concerned about their privacy online has dodged a bullet, at least for now.

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