AMIDST the crisis that the country is now facing in Mindanao, we want to spend time today to discuss the great importance for the Philippines to make a supreme decision to adopt and implement a unified national ID system.
This has risen in importance in part because of the confirmed news that there are now in the country foreign terrorists belonging to the IS terror organization who have come into the country surreptitiously and are now involved in the Maute group’s rebellion against the government.
The extreme situation in Marawi City, the plight of evacuees, and the spreading danger to neighboring cities in Mindanao should alert us all to the importance for our local communities and local governments to have knowledge who legally belong to their respective jurisdictions. Local communities contribute effectively to law enforcement and national security to the extent that they are able to exercise their lawful powers over their citizens and their jurisdictions.
Every time there is an earnest effort toward the adoption by the Philippines of a unified national ID system, we are well aware of the heat that it generates and the agitation by the parties that take part in the debate.
We noticed that the groups most hell bent in blocking the measure and in reciting its imagined disadvantages are invariably the so-called militant and socially conscious groups, and their representatives in Congress.
Their knee-jerk reaction is that such an identification card will pose a danger to personal privacy and to civil liberties. The card can be used as an aid for law enforcement, an aid for the defense of national security, and as a weapon for counter-insurgency.
At the other end, we have the groups on the right who ardently believe that with a secure and sound national ID system, our common desire for public safety, law and order, national security, and peaceful local communities will be significantly advanced.
Both these concerns in our view are important. They should be strongly advocated, and vigorously defended. What we should not allow is the curtailment of open debate of the measure. The public square should not be dominated by the loudest voices and imaginary fears. The citizenry should be able to see fully the merits and demerits, advantages and disadvantages of such a unified identification system.
There is merit in listening to the views of one representative who has presented in support of the ID system the following arguments:
1. “We really need a unified ID that will include our SSS number, GSIS, voter’s ID number, TIN . . . All the relevant info,” he said. The ID card will include the person’s photograph, name, birth date, gender, date of issue, signature of owner, and corresponding individual serial number issued by the Philippine Statistics Authority.
2.Under the measure, the Philippine Statistics Authority will be the implementing agency of the ID program. It will be tasked to create and maintain a Filipino Citizen Registry. It is better for one agency, rather than several, to be issuing the ID card.
3. Filipinos can get the non-transferable ID card when they reach the age of 18. When the ID card is presented to any government agency or for identification purposes, no other additional identification card will be required.
These are sensible and sound arguments in our view.
The other side should answer these arguments point by point, and refute them if they can.
With the arguments pro and contra the ID system set side by side, the public can then calmly and soberly decide which side deserves its support.