June 2, 2023

President Rodrigo Duterte in August 2018 signed into law Republic Act 11055 or the Philippine Identification System. This law mandates that all Filipinos and alien residents in the Philippines must register under a centralized government identification program. After which they will be issued a uniform ID in lieu of all other identification cards. Hence, the ID issued will encompass the driver’s license, social security, postal ID, and the like.
To avail of a national ID, those applying have to divulge some basic information about themselves. They have to submit their respective names, addresses, birth dates, and other vital information that will make it convenient and swift for the government to identify them and track them down, if necessary. The data will be stored in a matrix that is highly confidential. It will be made available only for valid and substantial reasons.
As much as the avowed intent of the Philippine Identification System is as noble as it is necessary, it was never enforced. No rules and regulations were implemented because influential lobby groups questioned the propriety of the law invoking privacy concerns. Hence, RA 11055 remains among the dormant laws that are like a rainbow. It is there to be seen but cannot be touched. It is akin to the anti-dynasty law that is being craved by the people, yet has nothing to prop it up in order to curtail a dysfunctional political system.
The full benefit of the Philippine Identification System should have been foreseen by now. There is a pandemic afflicting the country. People are confined to their houses and are only allowed to leave for their basic essential needs. With no work from whence to source their daily subsistence, most are dependent on the Social Amelioration Program of the government. The daily wage earners, the unemployed and the poorest of the poor, they are aplenty; they rely solely on the subsidy promised to them in exchange for their quarantine.
The funds are available. However, the mechanism to distribute it is as confusing as the schedule of the rolling market stalls. The master data on who are qualified as beneficiaries are in disarray. Many are complaining that they have not received their social amelioration program subsidy while still others are cursing the snail pace by which it is being doled out. Some local government units remain in a quandary on whether the persons they are giving the subsidy to are the right beneficiaries. In some instances, the list on the barangay level does not coincide with the list of the government.
Why is this so? There is no master list to guide the authorities. There is no conclusive and centralized data upon which the personality of the claimants can be established, confirmed, and validated.
The President was correct all along when he observed that had the Philippine Identification System been implemented before the Covid-19 problem ensued, it should have radically downsized the bureaucracy. Distributing relief goods and funds would have been a breeze. Probably, even the philanthropists from the private sector could have benefitted from this law to reach out to more people who are in need. They are holding back knowing that there are pretenders and scammers out there even during these most trying moments. Had the centralized ID system been implemented, scheming, and deceiving would be minimal.
It comes as a surprise that notwithstanding the obvious need of the national ID system, especially now that the Philippines is on a survival mode, a Bayan Muna party-list representative insists that the enforcement of RA 11055 at this time is “untimely, impractical and burdensome to the poor.” By golly, this is the best time to know the people who must be protected and who must benefit by the programs of the government. This is the best time to identify the poor because they are the most vulnerable in this situation. Otherwise, any Tom, Dick and Harry can take to the street and demand for money and food with no proof that they fall within the ambit of who the government must support and feed.
In constitutional parlance there is a term called parens patriae. It means that the government serves as the parent of the people in times of calamities and social disturbances. When people are incapable of supporting themselves, it behooves upon the government to feed them, to nourish them, to tide them over until the crisis ends. Apparently, this is what Duterte is doing. So why conceal the names of the children to whom he is obligated to act as a parent? It is as simple as knowing who are those who cannot fend for themselves. Impractical? The national ID system is the most practical solution to the confusion that is bogging the distribution efforts of the government.
It could have solved many problems. It could have provided a master list for barangays to follow thereby avoiding delay. There would have been no necessity of validations and re-validations because by then, the proper identities of the beneficiaries will be online in a master file. Besides, all they have to do is to present their nationally issued IDs.
Actually, the Philippine Identification System is in conjunction with the Social Amelioration Program of the government. They go hand-in-hand. So, if it is going to be implemented, the best time is now.