Issue of June 18, 2017

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More than ever

One of the topics that Sen. Panfilo Lacson talked about during his Independence Day speech was the necessity of having a national identification (ID) system. He lamented that it is probably only the Republic of the Philippines that is not implementing a national ID system. All other countries in the world have a system in place whereby their citizens are properly documented and identified.

Lacson is not the only one proposing for the adoption of a national ID system. As early as when Gloria Macapagal Arroyo was still the president, there were moves to put this in place. In fact, there were more than enough bills that were crafted to require all citizens to have a unified and a single identification card which they can use in their official transactions. These, however, were never implemented due to the staunch opposition by some radical groups. Although they constitute merely a minority, our legislators are afraid of a backlash, fearing that it might affect their chances of being re-elected. They listened to the voice of the minority and shelved the idea of putting into place a national ID system. The consequences of this inaction produced dire results.

The lack of an effective national ID system is being exploited to the hilt by criminal elements and terrorists. For example, in the ongoing siege of Marawi City, our law enforcement personnel are having a hard time tracking down the enemies of the State because they do not know them. They are groping in the dark, not knowing the identities of their adversaries. There is the constant fear that members of the Maute group or the Abu Sayyaf or ISIS (Islamic State of Iraq and Syria) may infiltrate other areas because there is no way of monitoring their movements. They are faceless and nameless.

This problem, according to Lacson, could have been avoided had our legislators approve of a national ID system. Still, despite this observation, many of our senators and congressmen chose to turn a blind eye to the necessity of having each and every one of our people identified through a state sponsored identification card. The reasons they give are ridiculous and obstructive.

They assert that such system will compromise the right to privacy. That it will be only a source of a ready and a verifiable information whereby the administration may harass its constituents. My God, if these are to be believed, then the United States of America, the bastion of democracy, would have long crumbled!

The proposed law on the national ID requires every citizen of majority age to obtain a unified identification card from the government. In doing so, some vital information about the personal circumstances of the applicant, like his name, age, address, and profession, among others, have to be divulged. These will be entered into a centralized data bank which will serve as a reference in identifying a person. The single ID that will be issued will no longer require the possessor to obtain others. In a sense, it will consolidate all identification cards. Hence, it will, in effect, be a driver’s license, an SSS ID, a GSIS ID, a PhilHealth ID, and the like.

So, what’s wrong with that? If giving up certain vital information about oneself is the only complaint, this is actually a moot and academic issue. In procuring a driver’s license, we give up information about ourselves. In applying for a BIR ID, an SSS ID, a GSIS ID, a PhilHealth ID, a postal ID or a Comelec ID, we are required to fill up forms detailing important information about ourselves. This practice had been going on for years. If we had been doing this throughout our adult life, why not go further by doing it for a unified and a single ID system? It is helpful as it is useful, not only for us but for our government.

If we have nothing to hide, why be afraid? Surely, the government will not be careless or insensitive in arresting us if we are law abiding citizens. We might as well be thankful that there is an effective way of which the police and the military are able to identify the criminals and the terrorists among our people.

More than any time in our history, we need a national ID system. At this time, the threat of terrorism is for real. It is already in our midst as proven by what is happening in Marawi City. The terrorists are emboldened to infiltrate our ranks and sow fear among us because we do not know who they are or from where they come from. Perhaps, if we knew their names and their faces, we will be more than prepared to confront them.

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