The idea has been tossed around for years, with proponents caving in to resistance from various quarters. Now it looks like the Duterte administration will finally push through with the implementation of a national identification system, with the initial purpose of streamlining tax collection.
In previous administrations, the implementation of a national ID was pushed mostly for security purposes, to make it easier to separate lawless elements from law-abiding citizens. Proponents argued that those who have nothing to hide from the state have nothing to fear, especially since the ID would simply consolidate personal data already available in several types of official documents such as income tax returns, driver’s license and voter’s ID. But opposition was strong particularly from lawmakers sympathetic to the communist insurgency, and the proposal was shelved.
This time, the national ID is being pushed by the Department of Finance, which also wants to include a microchip ostensibly for easy loading of government cash subsidies to qualified beneficiaries. The ID card will contain the holder’s biometrics and can be used for various transactions with the government.
Having a single government ID card can in fact be convenient for the public, unless the person is a member of the Mautes, Abu Sayyaf or New People’s Army who needs the protection of anonymity.
The devil will be in the details. Processing of the ID card must be efficient, with no repetition of procedures already undertaken for obtaining other official IDs. The government must guarantee that the ID card will actually be released within a reasonable period, unlike the years of waiting for the voter’s ID card after biometrics were recorded, and the eternal wait for driver’s license cards.
Once the national ID cards are released, the government must guard against fake cards, and against tampering with the database that is required in such a system, for possible use in criminal activities. The infrastructure must also be in place for the seamless use of the cards nationwide. If the government wants this ID, it must implement the system as painlessly as possible for the public.