De Lima urges Congress to review implementation of PhilSys


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Opposition Senator Leila M. de Lima has urged the Congress to investigate the status of implementation of the Philippine Identification System (PhilSys) to ensure that it does not unduly discriminate against marginalized and vulnerable groups.

De Lima filed Proposed Senate Resolution (PSR) No. 883 directing the appropriate Senate Committee to conduct an inquiry on PhilSys amid the setbacks brought about by restrictions to mobility due to the recent surge in COVID-19 cases nationwide.

“Assurance must be made that once PhilSys is in full swing, social protection programs would remain accessible to all without discrimination, otherwise the goals and universal aims of PhilSys would be defeated such us unlocking access to these programs,” she added.

According to a report by Privacy International, a centralized system of identification (ID) has been recognized by governments worldwide as an essential component in making social services and programs more accessible to the population, it has, however, been observed that these systems, by virtue of their design, “inevitably exclude certain population groups from obtaining an ID and hence from accessing essential resources to which they are entitled.”

While the implementation of the national ID system has been a hotly debated topic due to concerns on data privacy and even political abuse, the process was expedited by the government in April of 2020 as one of its responses to the COVID-19 pandemic.

Despite logistical challenges caused by the COVID-19 pandemic, 20.7 million Filipinos had reportedly managed to finish 2 out of the 3 required steps for PhilSys registration by July 23, 2021, as the government remains primed to achieve its target to sign up 50 to 70 million individuals by year-end.

De Lima said that, while registration is one challenge, the actual rollout and maintenance of the system is another.

She said it is “the very reason why an inquiry must be made to ascertain whether facilities and equipment necessary to do just that have already been made ready and available.”

“In addition, there must be an assurance of financial capacity not only to print the ID cards but to adequately respond to the demand,” she added.

De Lima said the government must closely monitor the situation and preemptively address failures in the system to cater to those who do not squarely fit within technological systems of identification and registration, ensuring that they “are not disproportionately prejudiced by prerequisites to social protection.”

“It must be ensured that individuals without legal identity such as indigenous peoples, foundlings and others similarly situated are not excluded from readily availing the benefits under the ID systems,” she said.

While the goals of the program are laudable, De Lima maintained that the government must not be too complacent in its rollout to the detriment of the rights and civil liberties of the Filipinos.

“Railroading the program in the guise of being the immediate solution to current problems, without any substantial proof that it would indeed aid in relief and subsidy distribution, may only serve to engender and even reinforce prevailing socioeconomic inequalities in Philippine society,” she said.

“Kailangang itigil o iwasan ang mga padalos-dalos at bara-barang solusyon, na imbes na makatulong sa mga matagal nang napagkakaitan ng serbisyo, ay lalo lang sa kanilang maka-dehado at makapagkait ng benepisyo,”she added. (30)

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