May 23, 2024

MAKING FILIPINOS VALUE THEIR ‘VITAL STATISTICS’

aWhile in the thick of employing programs to digitalize the provision of most government services and transactions, including the goal for all Filipinos to have a uniform identification card through the Philippine Identification System (PhilSys), it is concerning to know there are two million Filipinos who remain without a valid proof of identity, or whose births are not registered.
Some of them, according to the Philippine Statistics Authority, have reached the retirement age without a birth certificate, which would make one assume many may have also departed from life with no records of their birth, death, and other vital events when they were alive.
This means these two million Filipinos have no means of establishing their identity as citizens of this country, and how they transact or avail of services along the course of their life without a record of their vital statistics is a big question mark.
While vital, it turns out many Filipinos as shown by PSA’s statistics still do not appreciate the value of having their vital civil statistics recorded through civil registration. This includes births, deaths, fetal deaths, marriages, and all events that have something to do with an individual’s entrance and departure from life together with the changes in civil status that may occur to a person during his lifetime.
Among other reasons cited are lack of education on the need for civil registration, poverty with some having been born without a permanent address, and some are members of indigenous cultural communities who, along with other communities, are living in geographically isolated and depressed areas.
Due to low literacy, some do not see the need to go to the local civil registry office to register a birth, particularly in cases of home deliveries. To others, it is against cultural beliefs, they are in dire situations, or they simply do not want to go through the hassle.
PSA, as the agency mandated by law to keep and preserve through certificates these events in the life of a Filipino citizen, records in the appropriate civil registers the vital acts and events that affect the civil status of individuals. The certificates it issues are the bases for establishing the legal status of every Filipino. This should be enough motivation for the unconvinced to put their civil documents in order.
As the government now banners the ongoing PhilSys program “to simplify public and private transactions, access social services, and enhance financial inclusion” through a single national ID system, there is a need to focus on an effective way to convince or reach those two million Filipinos to get their civil records registered first and be counted as citizens with legal identity.
Before a national ID, a certificate of live birth is the basic if not most powerful document that establishes one’s personal identity and rights as a citizen of a country.
Like in many aspects of local governance, we see the role of local government units, the barangays in particular, crucial in reaching out to Filipinos with unregistered births, since barangay officials are closest and who best know the constituents concerned.
The key is to come up with an approach in partnership with the PSA and other concerned agencies that will convince them to register their civil information, or facilitate the civil registration process, especially for those who lack or completely have no access to government services.
We need to work out a way to reach and count in those who have no permanent address, the homeless, or those due to some circumstances makes civil registry the last of their priorities.
In launching the birth registration assistance project targeting these unregistered Filipinos, among the plans of the PSA are to minimize the so-called barriers in registration and waive the fees for late registration. We support and find this encouraging, given that we could be hitting two birds with one stone in implementing the project alongside PhilSys.
However, we cannot help but think this as a band-aid solution just to propel the success of the PhilSys. We feel it more effective if we have civil registration guidelines that make the process friendly and accessible in the long run, without the stresses the public usually experience and abhor when accessing government services.
Reports say over 50 million have already completed the step 2 of the PhilSys registration. If we can attain such number, reaching the two million unregistered individuals and urging them to establish their status as Filipino citizens should also be attainable. Then maybe no one will be left behind unlisted.