Lacson revives move for national ID system

Published by rudy Date posted on May 17, 2011

SENATOR Panfilo Lacson on Monday revived a proposal to create a national ID system, setting the stage for a debate over a measure that had already been rejected by the Supreme Court on constitutional grounds.

In refiling the national ID bill, Lacson said having one ID number would simplify transactions with the Bureau of Internal Revenue, Social Security System and other government agencies that require different documents such as driver’s licenses, passports and tax forms.

“It is rare for a person to remember all these different multiple-digit codes and to compound one’s misery, some of these numbers need to be changed every so often,” Lacson says in the explanatory note to his bill.

“A person is thus forced to carry several different cards or documents.”

A national ID was first proposed during the administration of President Fidel Ramos, but the Supreme Court in 1988 ruled that the administrative order establishing it was unconstitutional.

“Given the record-keeping power of the computer, only the indifferent will fail to perceive the danger that [the administrative order] gives the government the power to compile a devastating dossier against unsuspecting citizens,” the Court said.

Several attempts to revive the national ID during the Arroyo administration had also failed.

In the House, the allies of President Benigno Aquino III were divided over the revival of the national ID plan, with the leftist groups vehemently opposed to it.

“It will not pass in the House,” Agham Rep. Angelo Palmones said.

“The proponents can try but they will face a tough fight.”

Bayan Muna Rep. Teddy Casiño said it would be ironic for the national ID system to be revived under a President who had committed to upholding human rights.

“We believe the national ID system will only be used as a tool for harassment … and to crack down on those opposed to the government,” Casiño said.

But Muntinlupa Rep. Rodolfo Biazon dismissed those concerns, saying the national ID was aimed at easing transactions with the government.

Lacson, who was only recently suspected of traveling on falsified papers when he went into hiding to evade arrest, said a national ID system would help keep crime under control.

With so many IDs in use by different government agencies, it was a simple matter for a criminal to just change his name and get a new ID, Lacson said. He said some drivers had several driver’s licenses in their wallets in case traffic enforcers stopped them.

“When they’re apprehended for a serious traffic violation, they can just give away the license since they have four or five more,” he said.

Having just one identification system would help prevent that, since it would be easy to check an ID holder’s criminal record.

Lacson said the smart cards that he wanted used for the national ID would not carry sensitive information such as financial records and bank account numbers.

“[The ID] will have the date of birth, year, month and date and other basic information about the individual so it can be cross-referenced,” he said.

Under Lacson’s bill, the national ID would be valid for applying for driver’s licenses, passports, marriage licenses, death certificates, police clearances and business permits. It would also serve as a Philippine Health Insurance Corp. card and would be a requirement for obtaining a voter’s ID.

The police, which Lacson used to head, welcomed the revival of the bill.

“The national ID system will afford the effective tracking of persons for intelligence and law enforcement purposes,” said Chief Supt. Agrimero Cruz Jr., national police spokesman.

But Kabataan Rep. Raymond Palatino said the government had no compelling reason to impose a national ID system when the Web sites and databases of three of its agencies had been hacked.

He also said there was the risk of identity theft, a growing phenomenon in the United States.

“The risks far outweigh the benefits,” Palatino said.

“We cannot trust that this power would not be abused.” –Rey T. Salita and Christine F. Herrera, Manila Standard Today

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