House passes Natl ID, Public Utilities bills

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HOR plenary hall
The House of Representatives plenary hall. PhilStar file photo

MANILA, Philippines — The House of Representatives passed on third and final reading Friday, September 8, two controversial bills — House Bill No. 6221 creating the Filipino Identification System or FilSys, also known as the National ID system, and House Bill No. 5828 that could allow foreigners to own public utilities.

HB 6221 was approved on a 142-7 vote, HB 5828 by a vote of 135-8.

The FilSys requires all Filipinos 18 years and older, residing here or abroad, to register at the Local Civil Registry Office of the city or municipality where they live or in any of the implementing agencies and apply for the ID.  Application for the FilID is free.

Proponents of the bill hope the national ID will simplify the delivery of public services, cut delays and redundancy in government services and transactions, and bring down administrative costs and expenses due to the elimination of multiple government-issued IDs.

Pampanga Representative Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo, who authored the bill, said enacting it would “go a long way towards addressing one of the causes of red tape in our bureaucracy and the costly redundancies that Filipinos have to go through just to prove their identities.”

Aside from this, she said, it “will also help in combating terrorism and other peace and order problems since every Filipino 18 years old and above shall register under the system.”

“I hope that the Senate passes its own bill on the ID system so we can start working to harmonize the two versions,” she added.

But those opposed to the measure, led by the Makabayan bloc, worry about the security of the personal data required to be included in the FilID.

Ang pagkakaroon ng isang National ID System ay malawakang pagyurak sa right to privacy ng mamamayan. Magreresulata ito sa malawakang pagkait ng gubyerno sa serbisyo at proteksyon sa mamamayan (The National ID System is a wholesale trampling of the people’s right to privacy. It will result in the widespread withholding of services and protections to the citizenry),” ACT Teachers party-list Representative France Castro said.

Representatives Emmi De Jesus and Arlene Brosas of Gabriela party-list said under the “pretense” of simplifying the processes for availing of government social benefit programs, the national ID system will “intensify political repression and blatantly desecrate the right to privacy of individuals.”

Bayan Muna Representative Carlos Zarate said “the risk is too much” to entrust all sensitive information under one ID amid concerns about security of the civil registry.

Hindi gaya ng email na ‘pag na-hack, palit agad ng password, dito napakaraming information (It isn’t like email where you only change your password if it is hacked, here there is too much information),” Zarate said.

Albay Representative Edcel Lagman, who with the Makabayan lawmakers voted against HB No. 5828, said enacting the measure would give foreigners the license to own public utilities “without complying with the citizenship requirement imposed by the Constitution.”

The 1987 Constitution requires that public utilities must be owned by Filipino citizens or by corporations, partnerships or associations at least 60 percent Filipino-owned.

The bill seeks to redefine the term “public utility” by amending Section 13 of Commonwealth Act No. 146 to read: “No other person, business or service shall be deemed a public utility … unless otherwise subsequently provided by law.”

This will cover the distribution of electricity, transmission of electricity, and water pipeline distribution system or sewerage pipeline system.

The Makabayan bloc is composed of Zarate, De Jesus, Brosas, Castro, Reps. Antonio Tinio of ACT Teachers, Sarah Elago of Kabataan and Ariel Casilao of Anakpawis.

Both bills will be transmitted to the Senate for the upper chamber’s action.