Monday, May 02, 2005

To Be Identified or Not

Circulating in various email groups today is a joke about a man who, ordering pizza by phone, is refused the flavor he wanted because his ID, which the pizza man demanded, showed he has high blood pressure and cholesterol. He was also advised to pay cash since his ID number also showed he has overdrawn his credit card. When the customer cursed in exasperation, the man advised him to keep his cool since his ID number said he already has a police record. Although the story brings out smiles, it also underlines the public’s anxiety over the National Identification System which the government is raring to implement.


Part 1

Signed in secret

On April 13, President Arroyo signed Executive Order No. 420, which required government agencies and government-owned and -controlled corporations to unify their ID systems under the direction of the National Economic and Development Authority (NEDA).

The EO was released to the public on April 21 – one week later.

The mystery that shrouded the EO befuddled human rights groups, including an administration senator.

That same day, Senate Majority Leader Francis Pangilinan issued a statement labeling the signing of EO 420 as “ironic.”

“The national ID system relies on openness because we would be making public important personal information. If the circumstances surrounding the alleged signing of this EO are not transparent, then we have basis to doubt the eventual implementation of the system itself,” the senator said.

The government defended the secrecy of the signing, saying they withheld the release of the signed EO pending the resolution of legal issues.

According to Executive Secretary Eduardo Ermita, Macapagal-Arroyo wanted all legal issues resolved to ensure the order’s implementation.

In 1996, President Fidel V. Ramos signed EO 308, which ordered the adoption of a National Computerized Identification Reference System. Acting on a petition, the Supreme Court declared EO 308 unconstitutional on July 23, 1998, stating that the executive order usurped the power of Congress to legislate and violated the citizen’s right to privacy.
Turning people into numbers

Under EO 420, the government will harness the available data stored at virtually all government agencies – the National Statistics Office (NSO), Land Transportation Office (LTO), Department of Foreign Affairs (DFA), Social Security System (SSS), Government Service Insurance System (GSIS) and government-owned and controlled corporations, such as the Philippine Health and Insurance Corporation – and centralize everything under the supervision of the National Economic Development Authority (Neda).

“All government agencies and government-owned and controlled corporations issuing ID cards to their members or constituents shall be covered by this executive order,” states Section 2 of EO 420.

The order mandates that the information to be collected “shall be limited to the following: name, home address, sex, picture, signature, date of birth, place of birth, marital status, names of parents, height, weight, two index fingers and two thumb marks, any prominent distinguishing features like moles and others, Tax Identification Number (TIN).”

A corresponding common reference number will form part of the data, which means that there will be an assigned number for every Filipino who holds a national ID.

According to EO 420, the unified government ID system is expected to be in place by June.

Money for the ID

According to May Narag of All Card Plastics Philippines, a company that manufactures and supplies plastic ID cards, a regular ID card with a size of 2.18 inches by 3.45 inches will cost around PhP100.

Such card still does not have advanced security features and cryptographic technology that EO 420 mandates.

IBON Foundation computes that about PhP2.5 billion will be needed, assuming that 50 million Filipinos 15 years and above will be issued with an ID that costs only PhP50 each.

“It is questionable where government will get the budget for the implementation of the ID system, given its dire fiscal situation. Besides, such amount can be more judiciously spent for education, health and other social services,” says IBON Research Director Antonio Tujan.

Funds for the national ID, states EO 420, will come from “such funds as may be recommended by the Department of Budget and Management.” Bulatlat

© 2004 Bulatlat ■ Alipato Publications

Permission is granted to reprint or redistribute this article, provided its author/s and Bulatlat are properly credited and notified.

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