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Malaysians To Get National ID Cards

Manila Bulletin | April 22 2005

By mid-June this year, the government will issue "unified multi-purpose" identification cards to the public containing limited data and fail-safe security features for better convenience in official and commercial transactions without violating privacy rights.

In the Executive Order No. 420 signed last April 13 but released to the media only yesterday, President Gloria Macapagal Arroyo required all government agencies, including government owned and controlled corporations, to streamline and harmonize their identification systems.

The President directed National Economic and Development Authority (NEDA) Director General Romulo Neri to implement the unification of overlapping government-issued IDs in the next 60 days.

The participating agencies will collect and compile information in the unified ID, namely a person’s name, address, sex, picture, signature, birthday, birthplace, marital status, names of parents, height, weight, thumbmarks, any prominent marks, and tax identification number.

Under the order, the first five basic information of an individual will appear on the face or back of the new ID with a corresponding ID number issued by the participating agency and a common reference number.

According to the EO, the harmonized ID system primarily seeks to reduce cost in the issuance of redundant IDs in government and provide greater convenience for individuals transacting business with the public agencies.

It also aims to facilitate private businesses, enhance the integrity and reliability of government-issued ID cards, and prevent violations of laws involving false names and identities.

In the order, the President also directed NEDA to adopt several safeguards "to ensure that the right to privacy of an individual takes precedence over efficient public service delivery."

Data given by the cardholders will be kept and treated as confidential, according to the EO. A personal or written authorization of the owner shall be required for access and disclosure of data and/or revision of relevant data.

The order also sought advanced security features and cryptographic technology to protect the identification card from forgery.

"In no case shall the collection or compilation of other data in violation of a person’s right to privacy shall be allowed or tolerated," the order read.

The President assigned NEDA to adopt within the next months the new ID scheme "containing only such data and features to validly establish the identity of the card holder."

She empowered NEDA to enter into agreements with local governments, the Commission on Elections and other branches of government to ensure the government-wide adoption of the unified ID system.

The order, however, did not identify the exact funding requirements for the ID plan. "Such funds as may be recommended by the Department of Budget and Management shall be provided to carry out the objectives of this executive order."

Executive Secretary Eduardo Ermita said the Cabinet will convene next Tuesday to finalize the implementing rules and regulations of the EO and may submit the final proposal to the President a week after.

President Arroyo earlier pushed for a universal ID system, initially on the local scale and later on a national scope, as a measure to combat terrorism and other crimes. The executive order, however, did not mention such anti-crime objective.

Mrs. Arroyo said the interoperability of the government-issued ID cards will serve as a foundation for the eventual legislated national ID in Congress.

ID system implementation questioned

President Arroyo’s Executive Order No. 420 mandating government agencies to adopt a unified multi-purpose identification system drew immediate protests from the party-list legislators yesterday.

Bayan Muna representatives in Congress warned that EO 420 could unleash a tide of protest actions while saying Malacanang is going against the sentiments of the Supreme Court on the implementation of a national ID system.

Rep. Satur Ocampo said the President practically disregarded the sense of the Supreme Court ruling declaring such a measure unconstitutional.

Ocampo cited the decision of the Supreme Court defending the right to privacy and declaring the "Adoption of a National Computerized Identification Reference System violative of the Philippine Constitution."

He warned that the EO will "set the stage and give rise to a police state where citizens are spied upon and their movements controlled. Such a policy is prone to abuse both by military and civilian authorities as it may be manipulated to harass, arbitrarily arrest, and detain political dissenters, oppositionists, and ordinary citizens."

Rep. Joel G. Virador warned of massive protest actions against the government with the implementation of the executive order that will recall the demontrations in 1997 held to protest then President Fidel Ramos’ attempt to establish a national ID system.

"Malacañang is bent on whipping up a formula for total public unrest by pegging wages at low levels in the midst of rising prices of basic commodities, permanently silencing its critics, and now having a system of control and monitor of the people," Virador said.

"The National ID System has grave and far-reaching implications on privacy, civil and political liberties and freedom. It is a convenient tool for government to monitor and control the populace," Virador said.

Gabriela party-list Rep. Liza Largoza Maza questioned the rush in implementing what she feared was a national ID system countrywide even while Congress was still to deliberate on measures filed to achieve such purpose.

"Why the rush?" said Maza. "There are bills already filed on the national ID system both in the House of Representatives and in the Senate, which include public hearings. President Arroyo’s Executive Order on the same subject effectively renders public participation moot."

Maza said that Gabriela Women’s Party and other human rights organizations are against any national ID system as this compromises the individual’s right to privacy in the name of national security. She said she will scrutinize the content of the Executive Order and will challenge it in court if necessary.

Anakpawis Rep. Crispin Beltran questioned why Malacanang had kept the executive order under wraps before announcing its issuance and accused President Arroyo of gross abuse of authority.

"The President is exploiting her powers as the highest executive of the land and bypassing the powers of the legislative and judicial branches of government by passing an infamous EO that stands to further attack the already feeble front of human rights and civil rights in the country," he said.

"Creating a national ID system via a secret EO just goes to prove that the ID system has shady intents — that of curtailing civil liberties and democratic rights. It is dead certain that this EO has very contentious and infamous contents and provisions that will not survive the critique and opposition of human rights advocates, and this is why Malacañang is keeping it under close wraps," he added.