Lawmakers worry over threats to civil liberties, privacy from Natl ID law

May 11, 2017 - 2:22 PM
Illustration file picture shows a man typing on a computer keyboard in Warsaw
A man types on a computer keyboard in Warsaw in this February 28, 2013 illustration file picture. (Reuters/Kacper Pempel/File Photo)

MANILA, Philippines — The proposed national ID system poses a serious threat to civil liberties and privacy and makes possible a data breach many times worse than the March 2016 “Comeleak” that exposed close to 77 million voter records.

This was the worry of party-list lawmakers after the House of Representatives’ committee on population approved the proposed “Act Establishing the Filipino Identification System.”

The measure aims to “synchronize and consolidate all existing government-initiated identification systems into one integrated and efficient identification system,” including driver’s licenses, Social Security System or Government Service Insurance System IDs, voter’s IDs, Tax Identification Number, PhilHealth and Pag-Ibig IDs.

Gabriela Representatives Emmi de Jesus and Arlene Brosas noted that the bill does not have a penal provision for information leaks.

“While it prohibits unlawful disclosure of personal information, the national ID system bill pending in Congress does not have a penal provision for such,” they said.

“We expect that more data leaks similar or even worse in magnitude compared to the ‘Comeleak’ breach of voters’ personal information at the expense of personal privacy,” they added.

De Jesus and Brosas also fear the measure could be used for state surveillance and third party data leaks amid the “militarization of the bureaucracy” by the Duterte government.

“At a time when more and more military officers are occupying key government positions and extrajudicial killings persist, reviving the idea of a national ID system sends an ominous sign to Filipinos resisting fascist rule and defending civil liberties,” they said. “We fear that the national ID system will be used to conduct intensified surveillance and carry out more bloody operations against activists and even drug addicts amid the Armed Forces of the Philippines’ (AFP) all-out war campaign and the war on drugs.”

The abusive use of the system would set in place a “big brother state constantly spying on every move of its citizens.”

But other party-list Representatives Sherwin Tugna of the Citizens Battle Against Corruption and John Bertiz of ACTS-OFW both supported the national ID system.

Appearing at a press conference, Tugna said the potential benefit “far outweighs” the possible dangers having a single identification card for Filipinos. He proposed the creation of an oversight body that would continuously oversee the implementation of the system.

Bertiz said a national ID will help overseas Filipino workers in processing their applications and other transactions in the country or abroad.

Bayan Muna Representative Carlos Zarate, however, said the bill would “not only be violative of the people’s right to privacy but will even pose a serious security implication to our country.”

“Aside from the fact that this is an invasion of our people’s privacy this measure may have some very serious security implications since the proposed repository of all these data is the Philippine Statistics Authority that is now being  controlled by a US-based firm called Unisys,” he said.

Bayan Muna earlier filed House Resolution 592 to inquire into the P1.59-billion 12-year contract won by Unisys Corp., which gives it control of PSA’s civil registry system starting March this year until 2029.

Zarate noted that the Civil Registry System-Information Technology Project Phase 2 or ITCP2 deal between PSA and Unisy will be the second contract for the US-based firm, which also won control of the first phase of the project from the defunct National Statistics Office.

However, Zarate said Unisys had committed “gross violations” of the contract provisions for the project’s first phase, citing 2005 and 2015 reports of the Commission on Audit (COA).

Zarate warned that with “Unisys having unbridled control of the civil registry system, the US government can easily have undiminished access to all civil documents of more than 100 million Filipinos.”