MANILA, April 13, 2005
(STAR) By Paolo Romero - President Arroyo welcomed yesterday word of public support for a national identification system as part of the government’s anti-terrorism campaign, even as legal issues remain to be threshed out before its implementation.

"The surveys showing strong support for… the national ID system reflect the growing maturity of the average Filipino in discerning the imperatives of economic stability and national security," Mrs. Arroyo said.

She said the results of the Social Weather Stations (SWS) survey encouraged Malacañang to "move very fast, at least on the administrative side of the national ID" system.

Citing a 60-percent public approval rating for a national ID system, Mrs. Arroyo said the government would continue to fight corruption, waste in government, poverty and terrorism, with "the broadest political will we can muster."

The President had directed National Economic and Development Authority (NEDA) chief Romulo Neri last February to set up a national ID system and draft an executive order for its implementation.

Neri was given two weeks to craft the EO but Palace officials attributed the delay to its "fine-tuning" following the review and added recommendations by the President.

Mrs. Arroyo did not say whether she had already signed the EO but clarified the NEDA is still in the process of incorporating her recommendations.

"If I haven’t signed (the EO) it is only because it is being done because I already did all the corrections," she said.

Mrs. Arroyo said the executive order being drafted for the national ID system would consolidate the different identification cards issued by the Social Security System (SSS) and the Government Service Insurance System (GSIS) and other government agencies into one.

Neri also told the news conference that several meetings had been held with concerned government agencies and sectors to integrate the IDs.

Since the various agencies have their own systems and machines to churn out their IDs and some local government units are also planning to issue separate identification cards, Neri said they are considering standardizing the card’s appearance and features.

Neri said this would include the size of the ID card and the information it would contain.

He said the ID card holders would be issued their own "unique" reference numbers for life. The numbers would correspond to the data supplied by the ID card holder to the database of the National Statistics Office (NSO).

Neri noted that among the legal issues still being considered before the national ID system is implemented is what specific information would be included.

"The confidentiality (issue) is about up to what extent and what information should be included in the ID… and the legislation, I think, might be required on some aspects," Neri said.

A ranking Cabinet member admitted the issue of whether a law would be required to implement the national ID system is now being debated in Malacañang.

"No less than the Supreme Court said that this is unconstitutional, so this is a thorny issue with us," the official said.

Lawmakers had warned Malacañang against issuing an executive order to implement the national ID system without legislative authority.

They also pointed out possible legal weaknesses if the plan is implemented without an existing law.

Opposition Sen. Edgardo Angara had cited a Supreme Court ruling in 1997 that junked an executive order issued by then President Fidel Ramos for a national ID system.

Angara said the same ruling could be used as the basis to challenge any moves by the administration to institute a new ID system.

Even as he admitted a growing public consensus favored a national ID system, Angara said the proponent should approach Congress to enact a law authorizing its implementation.

Angara said the public deserves a system that is not too intrusive of people’s privacy.

Administration Sen. Rodolfo Biazon also said the proposal should be coursed through the legislation branch since a national ID system might also entail significant funding that Congress would need to allocate.

Biazon said previous bills on the national ID system should still be pursued.

He also stressed that the national ID system should not be tied directly to police operations to prevent issues of human rights violations from arising.

Reported by: Sol Jose Vanzi

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