The PH National ID and the printing challenge

By Rodolfo Andal

The Philippine government aims to issue a national ID. Image © computerworld.ph

THE impending passage of the law creating a National Identification System should be a welcome development for many Filipinos.

This according to a United States based political analyst Mike Webber. He said gone will be the days when even the simplest transactions would require multiple Identification (ID) Cards – all of which serve basically the same purpose. In its stead now, he said, a single unified government issued ID will suffice for all official transactions.

Just Last week, both houses of Philippine Congress were finally able to hammer out a common version of the National ID system for transmittal to Malacañang so it could be signed into law by President Rodrigo Duterte.

According to media reports, Sen. Panfilo Lacson has high hopes for the measure, saying he expects to “make public and private transactions easier, help deter criminality and improve the delivery of services to the poor.”

Moreover, Webber added, the National ID shall serve as the official government-issued identification document of a cardholder in dealing with national government agencies, local government units (LGUs), government-owned or –controlled corporations (GOCCs) and government financial institutions (GFIs).

Under the passed measure, private entities and establishments are also mandated to accept the ID as a valid proof of identity of the individual, without requiring other or additional documents.

Among the government agencies that are expected to implement the National ID system are the Department of Information and Communications Technology (DICT); Department of Foreign Affairs (DFA); Department of the Interior and Local Government (DILG); Department of Labor and Employment (DOLE); Philippine Statistics Authority (PSA); Government Service Insurance System (GSIS); Social Security System (SSS); Commission on Elections (COMELEC); National Privacy Commission (NPC); Philippine Regulation Commission (PRC); PhilHealth; HDMF or Pag-IBIG Fund; Bureau of Internal Revenue (BIR); Local Civil Registrar Offices (LCROs); Land Transportation Office (LTO); and the Philippine Postal Services (PPS), with the PSA being tasked to manage the implementation and ensure the security of the system in accordance with all applicable laws and policies.

But even as Filipinos welcome this development, many of us cannot help but feel a sense of apprehension in the capabilities of the government to fully realize its potentials, observed Webber.

This is because of the much publicized printing problems being encountered when it comes to other government issued IDs. From drivers’ licenses to passports and automobile plate numbers – it has been a litany of failures and excuses with no real solutions being offered.

In the case of the issuance of Philippine passports, sources tell us that while both the DFA and the Presidential Communications Office have yet to sort out where the real problem is, a more careful examination of the sweetheart deal during the time of former President Aquino with a favored supplier may hold the key in cutting across this particular Gordian knot.

But whatever the politics behind the passport problem, it is obvious that the government must take pro-active steps in addressing the issue of national printing, especially in light of the increased capacity requirements stemming from the implementation of the National ID system.

Perhaps it is time to look into the possibility of establishing a new, state-of-the-art, high-level security printing facility to handle the job? Such a facility will be invaluable not just for the new IDs, but also in solving the huge printing backlog in passports and licenses.
Webber insists that there is a need for a new printing facility to handle the National ID to erase doubts from the public.

The challenge of course is in the timing.

The National ID system is set to go on line within the next few months. With the current production deficit in the existing government printing networks, it seems likely that there will be growing pains. While setting up a new facility is, as we mentioned, an option. it will take time and resources before it can start operating.

In the meantime, it is the public who will have to bear the brunt of the delays. The good thing though – the silver lining so to speak – is that this problem comes at a time when a Duterte (not an Aquino or anyone else) is the leader of the country.

The former mayor of Davao City has shown an amazing capacity for coming up with creative solutions, and getting things done, especially when it means giving better public service to the Filipino people.

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