A newspaper report quoted NEDA Secretary Ernesto Pernia as claiming that a National ID System — which in our case, rolls out this month — will help curb leakages in the government’s cash transfer programs as it can help better identify “deserving beneficiaries” and also correct the “lag between the need of the citizens who merit assistance, and the provision of the budget.”

In this line, I urge the Philippine Statistics Authority (PSA) to hype up its pilot registration for the Philippine Identification System (PhilSys) that starts this September, so that it can achieve its target of having the entire population registered before the end of 2022. Many still lack valid proof of identity that contains both basic personal information and biometric data.

It is bewildering how some private enterprises go about checking one’s identity in line with their own security protocols. In my opinion, some of these protocols defy logic. And since there doesn’t seem to be any government-set standards for such processes, there is no opportunity or recourse to question them. The use of a national ID can help set a standard for security checks.

Perhaps not unlike a few others, I always carry an “old” ID card for identification purposes — an expired driver’s license — when walking about the city sans wallet and credit cards. Just cash in my pocket, the old ID, house keys, and an old mobile phone. I carry the ID so that in case of an emergency or an accident, people can “identify” me.

Despite its “expiration,” the details on the old license — name, date of birth, address, personal statistics, signature, and emergency contact number — remain valid and current. It is only the ID that has expired, but not its details. Even the picture is somewhat updated. What is important, I believe, is that I can be identified by name and photograph.

I tried a simple experiment in this regard. I carried three sets of identification: a “valid” driver’s license issued in 2017 and good for five years; the driver’s license that “expired” in 2017; and, a Social Security System (SSS) ID card issued about 20 years ago. Then, I tried to enter an office building in Makati City.

Upon entry, I handed the license card that expired about two years ago, and it was immediately rejected. When I inquired as to why, the woman behind the counter said that the ID was invalid because it was expired. When I argued that the details were still valid, including the address and the picture, she insisted that I give a “valid” ID instead.

I then gave her my SSS ID, which she accepted and considered “valid” for the simple reason that it did not carry an expiration date. And this is despite the fact that the ID carried only my name, SSS number, date of birth, and signature. It did not have my residential address nor my personal statistics such as sex, height, and weight. Worse, it carried a photograph taken 20 years ago. But it was deemed valid because it did not have an expiry date.

I did not bother to take out my current license, nor to argue the point that the details and photographs on both the expired and the valid license cards were the same. But, if the logic behind leaving an ID to gain entry is to identify a person entering a building, and leaving some from of trace or trackability in the future for whatever purpose, why then should an expiry date — or the lack thereof, in the case of the SSS ID — be the point of contention? An expiry date does not validate nor invalidate the details on the ID.

Go to a bank or any other establishment with Know-Your-Customer (KYC) protocols as required by the government, and you can also expect the same line of thinking or logic. My SSS ID, despite its deficiencies and age, remains a valid and acceptable form of identification as opposed to a recently “expired” driver’s license that has updated details and a more current photograph.

In this line, despite its lack of an entry for residential address, a passport with biometric features as well as a relatively new driver’s license also with biometric features will be your best bets for valid and acceptable government-issued identification cards. In many instances, two government-issued IDs are required for service, and these two will suffice.

The problem is that not everyone has a passport or a driver’s license. And while a motorist regularly carries his or her license, people carry their passport only when they are traveling. As such, many people will be one ID card short when dealing with banks and other institutions that require the presentation of two government IDs.

In rural areas, people usually don’t have either. No passport, no license. Thus, no ID. And, not everybody votes. In my case, despite being a registered voter, I never got a voter’s ID. And only a few people bother to get a postal ID. Senior cards and PWD cards are given only to a few. In this regard, I believe there is an actual need for a national ID card.

In a column this March, I also noted NEDA Secretary Ernesto Pernia’s concern that about 14% of Filipinos have limited to no access to government as well as financial services for lack of proper identification or proper documentation. This, again, further highlights the need for the Philippine Identification System or PhilSys, and the issuance of a “National ID” with a specific or unique and permanent PhilSys number for citizens and resident aliens. It should have personal details and biometric information.

As I understand the process, people will have to be registered, and then be given a permanent ID number and issued national ID cards after personal information submitted are “authenticated.” The national ID can be used for public and private transactions, and can serve as one of the two usually required when dealing with banks and like.

Many people actually fake their birth year for various reasons: to get a driver’s license at age 15 or 16; to get a senior card even before the age of 60; to delay retirement from government service by one to three years; to compete in sporting competitions in specific age groups; to get married; or to draw benefits or incentives, etc. Some simply pay to shortcut the licensing process.

Well, those days may be numbered. One indirect consequence of this national ID effort is the possible audit of all existing ID cards and weeding out those with false or fraudulent information. Linking public and private databases for the purpose of authenticating personal and biometric information will help purge the system of fake identification details.

It is about time that such a purge occurs. People with fake entries should now work on correcting them, even if it means paying a penalty. Once the national ID system is in place, all information made public might be vetted and authenticated, and any mismatch might just lead to confusion or delay or more penalties for the ID applicant.

As Secretary Pernia connects the national ID to conditional cash transfers, and as more banks and other financial institutions accept the national ID as a form of identification, and with a banking digital ID registry also under way, then surely we are now seeing the advent of the shift where “No ID, No Entry” will soon become “No ID, No Money.”


Marvin A. Tort is a former managing editor of BusinessWorld, and a former chairman of the Philippines Press Council.