By Joevel Bartolome, Lips Bermudez and Krishna Marie Bodios
Imagine this: you wake up late, rushing to get ready for work. You face a lengthy, hot ride on the jeepney, and by the time you arrive to your destination – the security guard asks for identification despite having seen you daily for years. You scuffle through your bag, wallets, pockets, and try to choose which one of the three or four identification cards you have to present.
In 2018, a press release by the Senate of the Philippines stated that there are currently 33 different forms of “functional” identification cards issued by various government agencies, including the Philippine Passport, Tax Identification Number ID, Postal ID, and the Professional Regulation Commission ID, to name a few.
In a study conducted in 2010 by law professor Greenleaf, he stated that the Social Security System Unified Multi-Purpose ID, bearing the most comprehensive set of information, is one that has been commonly considered as a de-facto national ID.
With each ID only valid in specific situations, the hassle of having multiple IDs is no stranger to the common Filipino.
This very situation might, to quote Senator Panfilo ‘Ping’ Lacson, lead to ‘duplication of efforts, wastage of resources, and uncoordinated identity approaches.’
To resolve this, the government has approved and introduced Republic Act No. 11055, otherwise known as “An Act Establishing the Philippine Identification System” in the middle of 2018. The primary purpose of which is to provide a valid proof of identity for all citizens and resident aliens as well as to eliminate the need to present other forms of identification.
The said act intends to be ‘a social and economic platform through which all transactions including public and private services can be availed of and shall serve as the link in the promotion of seamless service delivery, enhancing administrative governance, reducing corruption, strengthening financial inclusion, and promoting ease of doing business.’
Background of the Study
The United Nations-led initiative Sustainable Development Goals, or SDGS, has stated under Goal 16.9 – “By 2030, provide legal identity for all, including birth registration.” This goal is often interpreted as the need to register births, but other indicators have been proposed – one of which is the possession of a credential, a national ID.
Asian countries have been seen as a ‘growth area’ in terms of creating and technologically advancing identification cards.
Some of the Asian countries with a multi-purpose, compulsory, national ID cards are Afghanistan, Bangladesh, Bhutan, Brunei, Cambodia, People’s Republic of China, Hong Kong, Laos, Macau, and Malaysia. The identification systems offered in these countries has made delivery of government services efficient, enabled digital payments, protected the citizen’s rights and access to services, among other benefits (Asian Development Bank, 2016).
And for years, the Philippines has been exempted from this ‘growth.’
However, the country is no stranger to efforts of the creation of a single, multipurpose identification system, with an initial proposal back in the 1990’s during President Fidel Ramos’s tenure.
Due to lack of support from the Congress and the general fear of the public with regard to privacy issues, this action has failed to take off despite three decades of continued efforts of various legislators (Sy, 2018).
However, this idea finally materialized in the legislative branch after both the House of Representatives and the Senate proposed similar bills, approved in their third and final readings in September 2017 and March 2018, respectively.
In a press release by the Senate (2018), Sen. Lacson, as principal sponsor of the Senate version of the bill, stated that the purpose of the act was to harmonize and integrate ‘the redundant government ID cards into a single system,’ as well as ‘deter criminality.’
“At long last, we now have a law that breaks the formidable barriers between government and the downtrodden and the poor due to the lack of identification,” Lacson said.
Upon its signing by President Rodrigo Duterte in August 6, 2018, the RA No. 11055 or the PhilSys Act was finally ratified and became ready for execution and implementation.
Statement of the Problem
This study wanted to determine the information, factors, and production processes gathered and taken by the implementing agency, the Philippine Statistics Authority, for the execution of the Philippine Identification Systems Act or PhilSys.
The researchers aimed to achieve the following objectives:
- Ascertain the purposes and priorities in relation to the implementation of the PhilSys
- Identify information and measures by the PSA National Office and Negros Occidental Office already gathered and taken and to be gathered and taken
- Determine the readiness and progress of the PSA – Negros Occidental Office to implement PhilSys in the province
The results of this study might become significant to individuals, public and private offices, and other establishments directly and indirectly affected by the implementation of a singular, national ID system.
Scope and Limitations of the Study
This study will, first and foremost, focus on the implementation of the Philippine National Identification System. This study covers the purposes, priorities, and processes of the main implementer of it.
The scope covers the province of Negros Occidental, its municipalities and cities – including the highly urbanized city of Bacolod. This was done over the course of one semester.
Primarily, the limitation of this study is the novelty of such a system of identification in the Philippines.
The most ideal method for this study is a design which is repeatedly observational and longitudinal, as the implementation is still in its initial stages and is deemed continuous by the PSA office. However, because of the time span of this research, this cannot be made possible.
Definition of Terms
For better understanding of the readers, terms used within the study are extracted from the Definition of Terms provided under RA 11055 and are defined both conceptually and operationally.
Conceptually, authentication refers to the process of recognizing a user’s identity by associating an incoming request with a set of identifying credentials he/she has provided (The Economic Times, n.d.)
Operationally, authentication refers to the process of verifying the identity of an individual in the registry information of the PhilSys.
Conceptually, biometric information or biometrics are either physical or behavioral human characteristics which may be used to digitally identify a person or to grant them access to systems, devices or data (Korolov, 2019).
Operationally, biometric information refers to front-facing photograph, fingerprint, iris scan and/or such other facial patterns or identifiable features of an individual to be entered into the database of the PhilSys.
Conceptually, citizen refers to the status of a person recognized under the custom or law as being a legal member of a state or a nation (Caves, 2004).
Operationally, personal information refers to any information from which “the identity of an individual is apparent or can be reasonably and directly ascertained by the entity holding the information, or when put together with other information would directly and certainly identify an individual” based on the definition provided the Data Privacy Act of 2012.
Conceptually and operationally, Republic Act No. 11055 refers to the act establishing the Philippine Identification System, which aims to provide a valid proof of identity for all citizens and resident aliens in the Philippines.
Conceptually and operationally, registered person refers to a person who has been registered under the PhilSys.
Conceptually and operationally, registration refers to the process of entering demographic and biometric information into the system.
This part of the research discusses the research design, data gathering and analysis methods, as well as instruments and procedures used for the completion of the study.
A qualitative approach was used to help us determine the purposes and priorities of the PhilSys, processes already done and will be done by and the level of readiness of the Philippine Statistics Authority – Negros Occidental Chapter in order to implement the PhilSys.
The qualitative method is a research method of observing non-numerical data (Babbie, 2014). McLeod (2019) explains that this method aims to understand social realities and explain the ‘how’s and ‘why’s of particular events or phenomenon.
Content analysis was used as the main method of analyzing the data gathered. This method of analysis is commonly used to examine ‘documented information in the form of texts, media, or even physical items (Humans of Data, n.d.).’ In this study, it was used to gain a deeper and more complex understanding of the information and responses gathered from the data sources.
Sources and Instruments
The researchers used the official copy of the Republic Act No. 11055, published in the Official Gazette of the Republic of the Philippines, as the primary source of data for the research.
In order to track the implementation process of the PhilSys on the national level, news articles and related published interviews of involved legislators and implementers were also used as secondary sources.
To provide context and analysis of the facts gathered, an interview was conducted with the Chief Statistical Specialist of the Philippine Statistics Authority – Negros Occidental Office, Mr. Luis Gonzales.
For the interview, the researchers listed down a set of questions based on the research topic. The questions were formulated to draw out the perception of the PhilSys on a hyperlocal angle, focusing on the processes and the inner workings of the provincial branch of the PSA.
The questions focused on the type of information to be included on the identification card, the processes to be used to gather the aforementioned information, and the tentative schedules for the various parts of implementation.
In addition, the interview included the challenges and expectations faced and expected to be faced by the provincial office, as per the perceptions provided by Mr. Gonzales.
For data collection, the following steps were done by the researchers:
- Secured a copy of the RA 11055.
- Searched for news articles and interviews related to it.
- Jotted down the important and relevant data found, then categorized them depending on sub-topics or issues discussed.
For the interview, the following steps were done by the researchers:
- Researched on whom the head of the provincial office of the PSA is.
- Established contact by sending a letter signed by our Legal Research Professor and prepared a tentative interview schedule.
- Followed up on the appointments, which were done through phone correspondence with the PSA office.
- Collected the recording and notes on the interview and transcribed them.
RESULTS AND DISCUSSION
This section contains our key results based on the data collated from our primary and secondary sources, as well as a discussion on why these findings are significant.
The order of discussion follows from the statement of the problem – specifically to answer the following objectives: the purposes and priorities in relation to the implementation of the PhilSys, information and measures by the PSA National Office and Negros Occidental Office already gathered and taken and to be gathered and taken, and the readiness and progress of the PSA – Negros Occidental Office to implement PhilSys in the province.
This, together with some sub-points and other topics the researchers deem relevant to the main topic of discussion, make up this section of the study.
Purposes and Priorities
To begin with, the PhilSys is best described through an excerpt taken from its Implementing Rules and Regulations, which states: ‘The PhilSys is the government’s central identification platform for all citizens and resident aliens of the Philippines.”
Based on the full transcript of the act, the PhilSys has three key components – 1) the PhilSys Number (PSN), 2) the PhilSys Registry, 3) the PhilID. The PSN is a one-of-a-kind and permanent identification number, which will be assigned to each citizen or resident alien either upon birth or registration. The PhilSys Registry is a repository of all the data and information gathered by the PSA. Lastly, the PhilID is the non-transferrable card itself.
Figure 1. The Sample PhilID
The PhilID features the essential information we see on the common ID cards we own. On its face, it contains the PSN, full name, sex, blood type, date and place of birth, and address of the possessor, as well as a front-facing photograph. Optional information includes marital status, mobile number, and e-mail address.
It also contains a QR Code, a type of matrix barcode. This contains the biometric information of the card owner, which includes the front-facing photograph, full set of fingerprints, and iris scan.
The legislative enumerates the purposes of PhilSys, which we state in full:
“The PhilID shall be honored and accepted, subject to authentication, in all transactions requiring proof or verification of citizens or resident aliens’ identity, such as but not limited to:
- Application for eligibility and access to social welfare and benefits granted by the government;
- Application for services and benefits offered by the GSIS, SSS, PhilHealth, HDMF, and other government agencies;
- Application for passports and driver’s license;
- Tax-related transactions;
- Registration and voting identification purposes;
- Admission to a government hospital, health center or similar institution;
- All other government transactions;
- Application for admission in school, colleges, learning institutions and universities, whether public or private;
- Application and transaction for employment purposes;
- Opening of bank accounts and other transactions with banks and other financial institutions;
- Verification of cardholder’s criminal records and clearances;
- Such other transactions, uses or purposes, as may be defined in the IRR.”
During our interview with Luis Gonzales, chief statistical specialist of the Philippine Statistics Authority – Negros Occidental Office, he affirmed the purposes as enumerated by legislative. He spoke about how the creation of such identification system allows means for easier transactions, particularly those who have had difficulty getting an ID such as people in the far-flung areas. He also elaborated that this is in line with the focus of the government, which is to implement services to the poorest of the poor.
Figure 2. Priority Persons of the PhilSys Implementation
The PhilSys’ priority citizens, with reference to the Implementing Rules and Regulations, are the indigenous peoples, the poor, senior citizens, and persons with disabilities.
However, Gonzales also explains why the PhilSys is germane to the Philippine society in a brief, but encompassing manner: “Amo na ang imo gid ya nga tunay nga identity… nga ‘ako Pilipino,’ ‘ako si mister amo ni.’ Daw ginapanag-iyahan mo (This is your true identity… that ‘I’m a Filipino,’ ‘I’m mister this or that.’ You’re owning your identity).”
Processes and Procedures
On a national scale, the preparation for the implementation of the PhilSys is traced down to the day it was signed by the president in August 2018.
The main implementer of the system is the Philippine Statistics Authority, whose power to implement includes planning, management, and administration.
This implementation is to be overseen by the PhilSys Policy and Coordination Council (PSPCC) which, aside from the PSA, includes the National Economic and Development Authority, Departments of Budget and Management, of Foreign Affairs, of Information and Communications Technology, of Finance, of Social Welfare and Development, and of Interior and Local Government, National Privacy Commission, Government Service Insurance System, Central Bank of the Philippines, PhilHealth, Social Security System, and Philippine Postal Corporation.
Immediately after securing the president’s approval and the effectivity of the act, the preparation stages began – this includes the nationwide information dissemination in traditional media (print, television, and radio) and the procurement of the necessary equipment for the implementation.
In this case, the pilot implementation officially launched on November 25, 2019 in the House of Representatives, under the national office of the PSA.
During this, PTV reported that 4,000 people from the House of Representatives including the legislators, the support staff, and the house services employees were the first ones to experience the process of application and registration.
Figure 3. Steps in Processing your PhilID
Asec. Marie Rafael, from the Presidential Communications Operations Office, illustrated a brief summary of what happens during the registration process in an interview with PTV (2019).
It begins with filling an application form which requires your basic information, followed by a screening process, encoding of the details, and taking of biometric measures such as the full set of fingerprints, the iris scan, front-facing photograph. This process is culminated by the printing of the details, which will serve as the receipt of the applicant for when he/she claims the ID card.
The entire process only takes 13-15 minutes, Rafael said.
The pilot implementation was done not solely for the purpose of publicly kick-starting the system, but also, according to Gonzales, to test the machines and to troubleshoot arising issues as soon as possible.
The application and the issuance of the ID card for citizens is free of charge.
As the processing is free of charge, there is also a budgetary aspect to this. Fiscal management is done on the part of the national office of the PSA, drawing from the approved national budget.
“National ang naga-uyat sina tanan. Bali kami ya sa province, implementer lang kami. Whatever nga need sang provinces, national na ang bahala. (The national office handles it all, while we in the provincial offices are only implementers. Whatever the province needs, the national office is in-charge),” Gonzales explains.
In 2018, the PSA originally proposed a budget of Php 6.2 billion to hit its initial target of registering 25 million Filipinos, however, BusinessWorld reported that the Department of Budget and Management only approved Php 2 billion under the National Expenditure Program.
Recently, Senate President Pro Tempore Ralph Recto stated in an interview with the Philippine Star (2019) that during deliberations of the proposed 2020 budget of the National Economic and Development Authority (of which the PSA is under), there are no funds for the PhilSys.
In the same article, Sen. Sonny Angara, sponsor of the NEDA budget, said that there was a Php 2.4 billion allocated for the ID system in the ‘unprogrammed appropriation’ section of the General Appropriations Bill for next year.
Meanwhile, the issuance of the first batch of identification cards is expected to arrive within the first few months of 2020. In-charge in the printing process of the IDs is the Central Bank of the Philippines.
Gonzales said that they are hoping that the ID processing will be faster in comparison to pre-existing ID cards such as the UMID, as the CBP is the government’s financial institution rather than a private corporation.
The PSA national office aims to begin the mass registration by July 2020, which will mobilize the national and provincial offices, with the assistance of assigned fixed and mobile registration centers such as local civil registry offices, offices of partner agencies, and malls. In case of Filipinos residing abroad, the registration may be done with the Philippine Embassy or the Philippine Foreign Service Post.
The vision, according to PSA National Statistician Lisa Grace Bersales, is to enroll 25 million Filipinos by the end of the year.
This mass registration is to be continued until 2022, with a goal of registering 105 million Filipinos in total, which is basically the entire population based on the PSA Census as of August 2015 (Rodriguez, 2019).
Readiness of the Provincial Office
As of 2019, the Provincial Office is still in the early stages of preparation – which includes preparation of a new office space for the PhilSys department and the possibility of hiring additional manpower for the operation of the data-capturing machines.
The step so far taken is a survey conducted by the national office of the provincial offices in order to assess whether specific offices are to made as fixed or mobile registration centers.
Figure 4. Population of Negros Occidental and Bacolod City
Of the total population based on the 2015 census, 2,497,261 comes from Negros Occidental excluding Bacolod City. Bacolod City, on the other hand, comprises of 561,875 citizens.
Taking this fact into account, the provincial office has a high possibility of becoming a fixed registration center, Gonzales said.
Prior to the upcoming mass registration, the provincial office is also expecting a training, spearheaded by the national office, with regard to the operation and system of the machinery and equipment to be used for data-capturing.
A new department, called PhilSys Registry Office (PRO) is expected to be implemented in the provincial branch as well.
With their experience in terms of processing important documents such as birth certificates, death certificates, marriage certificate, and certificate of no marriage, the PSA is no stranger to beaurocracy.
“Once ma-implement, kung mag-start na sa field offices, ang expectation namon una-una, dako ang mabulig sa mga citizen nga medyo less privileged (Once its implemented and has started in the field offices, our foremost expectation is that it will be of big help to the citizens who are less privileged.),” Gonzales expressed.
Gonzales also exemplified an example of this situation, which is when a citizen comes to the barangay hall, the captain can easily identify the person as his constituent just by seeing his/her identification.
However, the provincial office has the same worries with respect to the implementation of the PhilSys – which is the peak season and the method of controlling the number of applicants.
“Ang amon challenge nga ginatan-aw, kung paano namon i-control. Kung damo ang interested, indi kami pwede makapasulod damo (The challenge we see is how to control this. If there are a lot of people who are interested, we cannot allow them all at once),” Gonzales said. He also stated that the novelty of the law would also be one aspect of difficulty.
Overall, the researchers have found out that the process of implementing the PhilSys, albeit tedious, is one that is elaborate and carefully planned by its main implementing agency.
Rather than directly enforcing a mass registration on the first run, they have opted to do a pilot testing in the central office, troubleshooting problems as soon as they come. This method minimizes errors and avoids major setbacks once it is launched nationwide.
However, in terms of the actual progress in the implementation aspect of PhilSys in Negros Occidental, Gonzales said that quantifiably, there is none yet.
This result shouldn’t be taken negatively, though. As the actual nationwide implementation of the PhilSys tentatively begins by July 2020, there is still viable room for preparation and eventual progress for the Philippine Statistics Authority – Negros Occidental Office.
Figure 5. Schedule of the PhilSys Implementation
The execution of PhilSys does not only allow an avenue for convenience of transactions or the government’s path to easier delivery of services. Among the purposes the researchers have found, there is one that stood out the most – the fact that a national identification system is a substantial form of owning one’s identity.
Through this, one person can officially take ownership of his identity – that he is Juan de la Cruz, and that Juan de la Cruz is a Filipino.
Based on the results and the conclusion from the study, the following are the recommendations the researchers have:
- The Philippine Statistics Authority – Negros Occidental Office should maintain close coordination with its National Office in terms of planning for the 2020 implementation of the National ID System particularly in terms of the budget, logistical concerns, manpower and other issues/concerns earlier identified.
- The Philippine Statistics Authority – Negros Occidental Office should have a strategic plan for 2020 to address concerns such as establishment of a control system in receiving and processing an influx of registrants.
The researchers would like to extend its utmost gratitude to the following persons who made this legal research paper possible despite the many challenges it faced.
Thank you to the Philippine Statistics Authority – Negros Occidental Office, headed by Mr. Luis O. Gonzales, for sharing his valuable time to actively participate during the conduct of the interview despite his busy schedule and allowing the researchers to gather the necessary data for the completion of the paper.
A warm thank you to our respective families, particularly our parents, for providing financial and emotional support in times where resources are scarce and our souls are weary from the pressures of law school.
Thank you also to our friends, classmates and to the #BARBETs for the help, laughter, or any support we had during the conceptualization of this paper.
A big thank you to the various online sources from the internet which greatly helped the researchers in paving the way to make and complete the paper.
To our Almighty Father, to whom we offer all the honor and Glory, that this endeavor bring additional knowledge on the implementation of the National ID System so that each and every Filipino will have the means to access the basic social services of the government and actively participate in the development of our country.
ABOUT THE RESEARCHERS
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