Opinion

Waiting for the national ID

Waiting for the national ID

Pilot testing began in September last year, and all Filipinos living in the country were originally scheduled to start registering this July for the Philippine Identification System.

PhilSys is the first-ever national ID system to be implemented in the country. Rights advocates had expressed concern over privacy breaches, particularly because the system will record every transaction using the ID card. Supporters of the program point out that those who have nothing to hide have nothing to fear, and that the information contained in the cards are already in the databases of various government agencies.

Concerns were also raised about possible data breaches and inaccuracies as well as duplication, identity theft and other cyber crimes in the implementation of PhilSys. The Philippine Statistics Authority, in tandem with the Department of Information and Communications Technology, exerted effort to address such concerns.

The first phase of the program involves demographic and biometric recording. The pilot test for the program, to initially cover select beneficiaries, is supposed to run from September 2019 to June 2021. Mass registration can then proceed until mid-2022.

Now, amid the confusion and complaints over the distribution of the multibillion-peso social amelioration program for the coronavirus disease 2019 pandemic, there are people who want the national ID fully implemented ASAP. A national ID would have facilitated the targeted distribution of aid, starting with the hardest-hit impoverished households. The ID system can also allow direct payouts to beneficiaries, bypassing epal politicians who may take credit for dole-outs of tax money.

Resources for the cash aid are limited, especially with revenue sources drastically reduced by pandemic quarantine measures. Distribution of the limited funds requires efficient prioritization of beneficiaries. Instead, there have been complaints of barangay officials playing favorites and giving the cash aid to friends and supporters, and bypassing needy households.

There is no way the PhilSys can be rolled out fully for the ongoing community quarantines. But this crisis is expected to linger for many more months, until a COVID vaccine or cure becomes commercially available. Millions of Filipinos will continue to need assistance in the near future. The national ID program can still be speeded up and used to make life easier in this pandemic.