Tuesday, September 26, 2023

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FIRING LINE: Finding fault in the national ID

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By Robert B. Roque, Jr.

I’ll say I have to applaud Senator Win Gatchalian for his oversight, paying due attention to the problem of citizens with banks that refuse to accept the national ID as sufficient proof of identity in making transactions.

Gatchalian calls this a “blatant disregard of the law” and urged the Bangko Sentral ng Pilipinas recently to remind financial institutions, like the Landbank and Development Bank of the Philippines, to reeducate their staff with the letter of the law, specifically the Philippine Identification System Act.

The truth is some banks disallow the use of the national ID in transactions because it bears no owner’s signature on the card. And that’s the same reason they reject opening new accounts for citizens, mostly in the low-income sector, whose only proof of identity is their national ID.

By my recollection, the BSP had already vouched for the sufficiency of the design of the national ID and the information it holds pertaining to its owner’s identity since it bears codes that can be verified offline and online.

The irony and absurdity of it all is that while the government has made steps for financial inclusion and rounding up its unbanked citizens into the age of e-commerce and e-banking through the PhilSys law, the very banks that stand to benefit from this ease in courting the informal sector’s cash are showing them the door because their front desks are trained to authenticate people’s identities based on a squiggly line!

I wasn’t aware that we were still living in the era of quill pens and parchment scrolls. Perhaps, we should send a carrier pigeon with our signatures to satisfy these banks’ archaic requirements?

Seriously, though, let’s not forget the true purpose of the national ID system as enshrined in the law. It was meant to simplify public and private transactions, not create another obstacle for hardworking citizens.

So, in this regard, I’m with Sen. Gatchalian in suggesting to hit the nail on the head, asking that banks be fined ₱500,000 for their every act of non-compliance.

Other problems with PhilSys

Meanwhile, Senate Minority Leader Koko Pimentel is calling for an investigation into the long-delayed issuance of national ID cards. However, fulfilling the mandate under Republic Act No. 11055 is too much to ask since it promised the delivery of 116 million “pre-personalized IDs” by 2023.

Instead of keeping up with that Herculean task, the Philippine Statistics Authority (PSA) might just be opting to erase that deadline.

Then, we’ve also caught wind of complaints about the quality of the printing of the national ID cards. Rumor has it that the backside of the card is prone to chipping away. Is this Mission Impossible, where the printed lines are meant to disintegrate before our very eyes?

It’s not funny at all because that’s the same side of the national ID that bears the barcode and QR code, which is the backbone of modern identification systems. 

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