EDITORIAL - Bogus SIM registration

The Philippine Star
EDITORIAL - Bogus SIM registration

The last day for the registration of SIM cards was July 25. Yet a week later, authorities raided an establishment in Pasay City that allegedly engaged in cyber scams. Video footage showed hundreds of mobile phones believed used in the scams, arranged in neat rows at the site. The raiders also reported finding numerous SIM cards at the five-story building housing Rivendell Gaming Corp. Inc., which is registered as a Philippine offshore gaming operator or POGO company.

About 650 employees of the POGO firm – 464 of them Filipinos and the rest Chinese and Indian nationals – were taken into custody as persons of interest in the scam operations. Among the Filipinos is a woman who was previously rescued by the Philippine government from a crypto currency scam and human trafficking operation in Myanmar, according to senators conducting an inquiry.

Sen. Sherwin Gatchalian said the raid further reinforced the country’s growing reputation as the “human trafficking hub of the world.” Gatchalian has been pushing for a total ban on POGOs, saying whatever gains the government received were not worth the criminal activities and other problems arising from online gaming operated mostly by Chinese nationals. Beijing itself has been urging the Philippine government to shut down the POGOs, citing the evils engendered by offshore gaming, which is prohibited for Chinese citizens.

Aside from reinforcing concerns about POGOs, the raid in Pasay also indicates that despite the law requiring SIM registration, various forms of scams continue to be carried out using mobile phones. This raises questions about the accuracy of data provided in SIM card registration. Surely people who engage in illegal activities will not provide accurate personal information when registering the SIM cards that are used.

Republic Act 11934, the SIM Registration Act, was enacted on Sept. 13 last year, becoming the first measure signed into law by President Marcos. It aims to stop the proliferation of scams using text and online messages as well as other illegal activities such as trolling, cyber bullying and the spread of disinformation and harmful content.

Even when the law was being crafted, however, questions had been raised on the capability to verify data provided in registering subscriber identity modules. The raid at the POGO hub in Pasay should provide an opportunity for anti-cyber crime units to determine how lawbreakers are going around the SIM Registration Act to continue their illegal activities. Loopholes must be plugged to make this law attain its objectives.

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