By Benjamin Pulta

RACE AGAINST TIME. Telecommunications staff assist residents in registering their SIM (subscriber identity module) cards in Barangay Immaculate Conception, Quezon City on Friday (April 14, 2023). The deadline for registration is on April 26, after which unregistered SIM cards already in use will be deactivated in compliance with Republic Act 11934. (PNA photo by Robert Oswald P. Alfiler)

MANILA – Various organizations, including party-list groups, on Monday filed a petition before the Supreme Court (SC) to declare unconstitutional Republic Act 11934 or the SIM (subscriber identity module) Card Registration Act.

Data showed about 57 million users have registered with only less than two weeks before the April 26 deadline, or just 34 percent of the estimated 168.977 million SIM cards in use nationwide.

In their 59-page petition, the groups said the law restricts the constitutionally guaranteed freedom of speech and violates the right against unreasonable searches, seizures, and the right to substantive due process.

The petitioners said the SIM Registration Act imposes a system of prior restraint through mandatory registration.

The petition filed by the National Union of Journalists of the Philippines, journalist Ronalyn Olea, former Bayan Muna Party-list representative Eufemia Cullamat, Bayan Muna secretary general Renato Reyes Jr., information technology professional Maded Batara III of Junk SIM Registration Network, fisherfolk leader Alberto Roldan of Pamalakaya, peasant leader Danilo Ramos and lawyer Michael Christopher de Castro, among others, asked the SC to issue a temporary restraining order while their plea is pending and the respondents to “cease and desist from using, storing, transferring, and processing all information gathered into the SIM Register and destroy data already gathered.”

Named as respondents are the National Telecommunications Commission (NTC), Department of Information and Communications Technology, National Privacy Commission and the Trade and Industry, the Interior and Local Government, and the Education departments.

The law signed by President Ferdinand R. Marcos Jr. on Oct. 8, 2022 requires Public Telecommunication Entities (PTEs) or direct sellers to demand end users of SIM cards to present identification document to validate their identities.

PTEs must submit verified lists of their authorized dealers and agents nationwide to the NTC and updated lists every quarter.

Telecommunications companies have asked the government to extend the registration deadline “to help give ample time to all mobile users, particularly the marginalized sectors and those located in geographically isolated and disadvantaged areas of the country, to register their SIM cards.”

Unregistered SIM cards past the deadline will be deactivated. (PNA)