DOJ: No legal impediment on nat’l ID system but…

Published by rudy Date posted on March 17, 2011

MANILA, Philippines – Proposals for a national identification (ID) system never got to see the light of day, so to speak, due to stiff opposition from sectors who fear it may infringe on the rights of citizens.

Reactions have been, at times, violent as expressed in various fora – be it table discussions or via the parliament of the streets. but those who advocate its implementation have, so far, not given up.

The Department of Justice (DOJ), sought for comment by the House of Representatives Committee on Revision of Laws, sees no legal impediment in the passage of legislative measures on the imposition of a single ID card system, provided that every citizen’s rights should not be violated.

There are two pending bills at the House of Representatives seeking to finally implement the program. However, the bills differ in terms of proposed coverage.

House Bill (HB) no. 131, authored by Albay 2nd District Rep. Al Francis Bichara, entitled “An Act Otherwise Known as Voluntary Information Personal Card System ‘VIP’ to be implemented by the National Statistics Office (NSO),”  as the title clearly states, merely intends to make the ID system voluntary.

House Bill no. 241 authored by Camiguin Rep. Pedro Romualdo, entitled “Establishing a Filipino Identification System” intends to make it compulsory on Filipino citizens 18 years old and above.

“We see the value-added in having a single card as a tool of identification, especially in commercial transactions. We hope that the enactment of a law mandating a national identification card will be done with due regard to every person’s civil liberties or constitutional rights,” Justice Secretary Leila de Lima, former Commission on Human Rights (CHR) chairperson, said, in an official communication dated March 14, 2011 addressed to Committee on Revision of Laws chairperson Marlyn Agabas.

The justice chief said the proposed legislations “seem to be in keeping with the ruling of the Supreme Court in Kilusang Mayo Uno, et al. v. director-general.”

In said ruling dated April 19, 2006 penned by Associate Justice Antonio Carpio, the high court upheld the constitutionality of former President Gloria Macapagal Arroyo’s executive order (EO) no. 420 which directed the adoption of a unified multi-purpose ID system in order to streamline and harmonize the ID systems of government agencies and government-owned and controlled corporations.

EO 420 identified only the following data to be collected: the person’s name, home address, gender, picture, signature, date of birth, place of birth, marital status, names of parents, height, weight, two index finger marks and two thumb marks, prominent distinguishing feature, and tax identification number (TIN).

The high court held that it was within the constitutional powers of the president to direct government agencies under the executive branch to adopt a uniform ID data collection and format, and that this was in keeping with the president’s constitutional duty to ensure the faithful execution of laws.

Addressing the issue on infringement of rights, the high court said “the right to privacy does not bar the adoption of reasonable id systems by government entities.”

“All these years, the GSIS, SSS, LTO, Philhealth and other government entities have been issuing id cards in the performance of their governmental functions. There have been no complaints from citizens that the ID cards of these government entities violate their right to privacy. there have also been no complaints of abuse by these government entities in the collection and recording of personal identification data,” the court said.

To support her position on the legality of the proposed measures, de Lima cited the high court’s enumeration of what, on the other hand, warrants legislation in the implementation of a government-maintained ID card system: “First, when the implementation of an ID card system requires a special appropriation because there is no existing appropriation for such purpose. Second, when the ID card system is compulsory on all branches of government, including the independent constitutional commissions, as well as compulsory on all citizens whether they have a use for the ID card or not. Third, when the ID card system requires the collection and recording of personal data beyond what is routinely or usually required for such purpose, such that the citizen’s right to privacy is infringed.”

De Lima, citing that the two proposed measures on the national ID system are still in the initial stage, raised, for the committee’s consideration, the existence of EO 420 which paved the way for the introduction of the unified multi-purpose ID (UMID) card aimed at being the only card needed to transact business with the Social Security System (SSS), Government Service Insurance System (GSIS), Philhealth and Pag-ibig.

De Lima also raised the existence of two government-issued cards: a postal identification card implemented by the Philippine Postal Corporation, and the Commission on Elections-issued voter’s identification card which is considered a valid ID card for government transactions, including financial transactions.

She also mentioned for the committee’s consideration, a proposal in the past for the customization of the community tax certificate(CTC) into an ID card. The justice department’s legal opinion on the matter sometime in 2007 stated that it needed the passage of legislation. –Ina Reformina, ABS-CBN News

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