The Philippine government under Pres. Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo relives the issue regarding the national identification system which was first proposed during the administration of former Pres. Fidel V. Ramos. During the former president’s time, the proposal was trashed by the Philippine Congress and Senate due to unconstitutionality. This time again, the present government pushes to implement the same via an Executive Order, bypassing Congress and Senate.
For a common citizen like myself, I can only disagree to this move of the government. A national ID system cannot and will not curb terrorism, poverty and corruption – things that have been plaguing the society for centuries now. The argument of government officials of course is pointed towards national development through curbing acts of terrorism. They say someone can no longer buy products from pharmacies, chemical plants and industrial establishment the equipment and ingredients needed to produce a bomb or anything illegal since an ID is needed before you can even purchase an item from a store or seller.
However, if we dig deeper into the realities of this act, is the government making false assumptions that every citizen is a terrorist, planning a coup against the government? The simple fact that smuggling of materials needed to produce bombs, distribution of drugs and increasing crime rates cannot be combated, why should an individual living a simple life, earning a living in a good and legal way suffer the consequences of showing an ID card containing vital information about his person? With the advent of modern technology available today, even showing to anyone you don’t know your Social Security number may get you in a lot of trouble. Your home address shown on a card can also be the start of your misery (well, thanks to kidnapping, theft and other heinous crimes).
As regards my personal take on this, I think the government’s paranoia on the growing number of detractors, unsatisfied citizens and imminent uprisings, triggered pretty obvious selfish motives. For human rights advocates, they simply call this invasion of privacy. While it’s true, this is an invasion of privacy, a deeper meaning can be associated with this move – the present government wants to retain power at will, creating a martial-law-like society where the police, military and other agencies of the government must and should know everything about its citizens – where they live, what’s their phone numbers, etcetera. In developed countries where governments have the means, actual need and political will to implement a law like this, it’s just alright. There appears to be no problem. However, for a country like the Philippines, I think the government is not in any way prepared to implement such. The level of maturity of government officials is low. In practice, law enforcement is inept because in most cases, the laws only apply to small fishes. Bigwigs will and can always find a way to evade the instigation of laws.
The masses are likewise unprepared for this since the provisions of the proposed law are still unclear and doubtful. Who should have a National ID? What are the details of the person that should be contained in the ID? Are there certain prerequisites? These things are not even considered well and laid down up to this time.
The penalties for disobedience are not also comprehensible. Should “violators” be put to jail? Should a fine of certain amount be collected from them? Should they render community service? Up to now, we can only speculate.
Overall, this law should be studied further prior to passing in Congress and Senate. A public debate should be initiated. A plebiscite might also be a good process to get the pulse of the citizens. A nationwide survey should be done within a considerable amount of time. Creating a law of this magnitude takes a lot of considerations. Educating the public about this law should be the first step to be taken. How can citizens understand and appreciate something that will affect their lives without gaining adequate education and good insight about it? From my understanding of law-making, this should not be enacted yet. Not just yet. Just because Congress and Senate have the power to do pass it doesn’t really mean they should. And that’s just from the point of view of an inquiring mind.