PhilID constitutional, implement it ASAP
Never has it been more urgent than now—amid the war on COVID-19—to implement fully Republic Act No. 11055, the law “establishing the Philippine Identification System” and the “PhilID” card, our version of the national ID card.
Leading the call to fast track its implementation are President Duterte, Senate President Vicente Sotto III, and Sen. Panfilo Lacson, the law’s author, to help identify the 18 million impoverished households and to distribute to all of them asap the cash assistance of P5,000-P8,000 monthly for two months mandated by the Bayanihan to Heal as One Act.
Ostensibly enacted “as a means of simplifying public and private transactions,” the PhilID will also help in preventing the transmission of the disease by facilitating the contact tracing of COVID-19 patients.
Notably, the PhilID card will contain only the “PSN [PhilSys Number], full name, sex, blood type, marital status (optional), place of birth, a front facing photograph, date of birth, and address of the individual in whose name it was issued” and a “QR Code which contains some fingerprint information and other security features as safeguards for data privacy and security, and prevention against the proliferation of fraudulent or falsified identification cards.”
These simple personal data are already publicly disclosed in drivers’ licenses, passports, senior ID cards as well as in ID cards issued by the Social Security System (SSS) and the Government Service Insurance System (GSIS).
The law, in my humble opinion, will easily pass constitutional challenge because of the simplicity of the required personal data. In fact, I believe Congress and the President were well aware of, and guided by, the jurisprudence on the subject before they enacted and finally approved RA 11055 on Aug. 6, 2018.
The earliest case in point arose when then President Fidel V. Ramos issued Administrative Order No. 308 (AO 308) establishing the “National Computerized Identification Reference System” which, in Ople v. Torres (July 23, 1998), was invalidated on the ground that a national ID system could be instituted only by Congress.
While the decision writer, Justice (later Chief Justice) Reynato S. Puno, valiantly argued that the national ID would “put our people’s right to privacy in clear and present danger,” a majority of the justices voted to invalidate AO 308 solely on the ground that only a law, not an executive issuance, may establish a national ID system. The majority did not support the ponente’s stand on the constitutional issue.
In a later case, Kilusang Mayo Uno v. Director General (April 19, 2006), the Supreme Court voted 11-2 to validate an executive issuance, Executive Order No. 420 (EO 420), directing all government agencies to adopt a uniform data collection and format for their existing but separately-issued ID cards.
The Court reasoned that though merely an executive issuance, EO 420 was directed only at the offices under the Executive Branch of government—GSIS, SSS, and Land Transportation Office—to issue a single, unified card in lieu of multiple cards.
The Court explained that legislation was needed only when (1) the ID system will require an appropriation, (2) it is compulsory for all branches of the government and all citizens, and (3) the data collected goes “beyond those routinely or usually required” to transact business with the offices concerned.
Given this jurisprudence and the simple personal data the PhilID requires, I have, to repeat, no doubt RA 11055 will pass constitutional scrutiny. The “leftists” whom President Duterte blamed on national TV-radio last Monday will, I think, fail in their opposition to the PhilID.
What remains to be done AS SOON AS POSSIBLE is for the Philippine Statistics Authority, the “primary implementing agency to carry out the provisions of” RA 11055, to hasten its announced plan “to begin mass enrollment into the ID system in mid-2020.”
Sotto and Lacson said the Senate will soon conduct an inquiry on why the implementation of RA 11055 had been delayed despite its allotment of over P6 billion in the General Appropriations Act during the last three years.
Verily, I urge the PSA Board—chaired by the Neda secretary (Ernesto Pernia was replaced by Finance Usec Karl Chua last Friday) with a large phalanx of undersecretaries as members—to act pronto lest an enraged President Duterte tongue-lashes it again.
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