SIM Card registration extension: Providing troll farms a space to maneuver?

Bongbong Marcos signed Tuesday, April 25, the 90-day extension for SIM card registration. It appears, however, that the extension is favoring only the troll farms.

The SIM Card Registration Law (RA 11934) mandates that anyone selling a SIM card must first inquire about a valid identification document before proceeding with the sale. Those with existing SIM cards are also required to register the same with the deadline of registration set on 26 April 2023. Three days before the deadline, however, only 82 million SIM cards have been registered or 49.31% of total active SIMs. As of December 2022, around 168,016,400 SIMS are considered active in the Philippines.

The poor registration turnout is due to the following which the government failed to carefully consider:

  1. Lack of government-issued ID which was not addressed even with the National ID System. Registration in the National ID system still requires the registrant for an ID card to be able to register. Funny, right? You applied for an ID because you do not have one and yet you are asked to produce an ID to be able to have an ID.
  2. Some people do not have the financial resources necessary to register a SIM card. Note that in order to register, one needs to connect to the internet either through a WiFi or a mobile data. Unfortunately, many students switched to modular distance learning mode is because they cannot sustain purchasing mobile data.
  3. Geographic barriers particularly for people living in remote areas. Though there are registration centers established in some areas, not all can access the same.
  4. Language and literacy barriers as people who do not speak the language and have low levels of literacy may find the registration forms and procedures difficult to understand. Again, note that the Philippines has been at the lower tiers of functional literacy levels.
  5. Mistrust of government or service providers. Even though there is a Data Privacy Act (RA 10173), people are still wary of how the government and its personnel handle personal data.
  6. The lack of appropriate information campaign also adds up to the barriers. Some people may not be aware of the requirement to register SIM cards, particularly if they are new to the country or if there is poor communication and education around the topic.
  7. Some people may be too busy or have other priorities that prevent them from taking the time to register their SIM card.
  8. There is 1.6 SIM card for every Filipino, including newborn ones. Simply put, there are really individuals who maintain lots of SIM cards. Logically, however, only those hiding something or those with illegal acts would maintain more than two SIM cards. These acts could include maintaining troll farms.

Troll farms are a reality in the Philippines. As Bongbong Marcos admitted, he won because of the troll army. He denied having a troll farm, though, but the possibility is that somebody is maintaining the troll farm for him. Therefore, is the extension of the SIM card registration the result of lobbying by those who maintain troll farms?

Bongbong Marcos has been touted by former President Rodrigo Duterte as a weak leader. If the purpose of the extension is not to give the owner of troll farms a legroom to maneuver, then he could have just implemented the law. To address the barriers to SIM card registration, he could have introduced a number of innovations along with a stick to hit those underperforming government agencies. Of course, on the top of the list is the Philippine Statistics Authority (PSA) which is in-charged of National ID System. The PSA already has the budget and yet the ID cards still remains to be seen. The DICT and the communication arms of the government also ranks next as the information and dissemination drive still remains ineffective — if there are really no troll farms.

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