11 July 2017
Foundation for Media Alternatives’ statement on a national ID system


Officials of the Department of Finance made headlines recently with the pronouncement that the government plans to earmark PhP2 billion for the implementation of a national ID system next year. Together with their peers in the executive and proponents of the measure in Congress, these officials all proclaim the merits of having a centralized identification system: a panacea to red tape, and an obvious solution to terrorism, crime, and other security issues.

We, at the Foundation for Media Alternatives (FMA), believe that such sweeping claims deserve a thorough and in-depth look, lest this turns out to be one of those instances wherein the much-touted cure becomes worse than the disease it is supposed to prevent.

With red tape, for instance, the problem is by no means unique to government. It is common in organizations owing to poor communication, inflexible systems, and inefficient processes. As such, solutions almost always require comprehensive changes in the way things are done. That is what this administration should aim for and not an ID system, which is far from the vaunted solution it is made to be. If anything, introducing such a system may aggravate the situation by requiring more (and not less) bureaucracy. After all, most proposals seek the creation of a new database, which essentially duplicates the existing civil registry. They also require the establishment of registration centers here and abroad, thereby demanding more manpower or at least additional work for existing state employees. Truly, the system could end up expanding the bureaucracy and increase its maintenance costs.

In terms of security, for all its supposed merits as a boon for law enforcement and national security agencies, a Filipino ID system also makes Filipinos more vulnerable. If we take the consolidated House bill, for example, it requires a considerable amount of sensitive personal data to be stored in a centralized repository. Having all these information in one place makes millions of Filipinos vulnerable to identity theft and other related crimes, via unauthorized access and other threats. After the Comelec breach incident last year, there is a real and substantial basis for this concern, especially if one considers that no system is ever completely secure or immune from breach.

Finally, it is also worth reiterating how any ID system is one slippery slope away from being used as a systematic and pervasive State surveillance tool against the people. This is because it affords the government the power to monitor not only transactions, but also other activities and events in a person’s life. And it retains all this potential for misuse and abuse, despite the existence of Constitutional and statutory safeguards (i.e., Data Privacy Act).

In other countries, their experience has shown that a national ID system, once installed, is never used only for the purpose it was originally intended. Here in the Philippines, we have the unrelenting so-called War on Drugs and a renewed drive towards militarization in the South. Amid such climate of fear where respect for fundamental human rights continues to erode, how far-fetched really is the idea that an ID system will be exploited by the government in pursuit of its self-determined priorities? And how unlikely really is the possibility that it will be used, not as a tool for development, but as a weapon for abuse and injustice?


For questions, please contact Atty. Jamael Jacob or Atty. Cecille Soria at (02) 435-6684 or info@fma.ph.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.

Related Posts


SIM Registration: Fueling the Security vs. Privacy Debate

This article was originally published on 21 August 2017 as a blog entry at Newsbytes Philippines. For years now, legislators and law enforcement agencies, with support from the executive branch, consistently push for a mandatory Read more…

Gender & ICT

Philippines in the UPR: Misrepresentations and Myopic Responses

This year, the Philippines is undergoing its third Universal Periodic Review (UPR) before the UN Human Rights Committee (HRC). The Foundation for Media Alternatives (FMA) submitted a UPR stakeholder report on the state of digital Read more…


COMELeak: A Year Hence

In March 2016, the Philippines took global headlines by storm when the Commission on Elections (COMELEC) website was breached and several voters’ databases were leaked online. The breach, popularly referred to as COMELeak, is now Read more…