On Wednesday, 28 February 2018,the Foundation for Media Alternatives (FMA) released a briefing paper on the long-standing effort by government to establish a national ID system in the Philippines. FMA is a civil society organization that aims to assist civil society organizations and other development stakeholders in promoting and defending their right to information and communication.
The paper, entitled “The National ID Debate: Is the Philippines Ready?”, presents the much-touted benefits of an identity management scheme usually highlighted in campaigns pushing for its establishment.The most popular claim continues to be that it would improve the delivery of public services, thereby addressing the country’s societal exclusion problems. On the other hand, the paper also identifies the dangers inherent in such a system,as ably demonstrated by the experience of other countries. India’s Aadhaar Project, for one,was initially hailed as a success story before reports of its issues and vulnerabilities broke out.
In the briefing, FMA also offers a quick scan of the history of the ID campaign in the country, which may be traced as far back as 1973, courtesy of then-President Marcos.Efforts by President Ramos and Macapagal-Arroyo are also mentioned, including an overview of the pertinent Senate and House bills currently pending in Congress.
In the end, FMA highlights the need for Congress and all interested parties to thoroughly consider the ramifications of having a comprehensive ID system. Where risks abound, solutions should be developed, such as adopting a “privacy by design” approach and putting in place proper accountability mechanisms. Finally, It calls on the public, especially privacy and human rights advocates, to remain wary of and resist any measure that gives more power to an administration that already has overwhelming control over the entire government, and which is not shy to use it.