Why A Filipino ID System Is Needed

by Joseph G. Lariosa

CHICAGO (FAXX/jGLi) – In the late 1980’s, Eminiano “Jun” A. Reodica, Jr. fled from Los Angeles, California and returned to the Philippines to escape the wrath of hundreds of Filipino Americans he defrauded of millions of dollars in his Ponzi scheme, using his car dealership as his front.

Almost at the same time of the Cory Aquino Presidency, self-exiled Filipino industrialist Eduardo “Danding” M. Cojuangco, using his clout and his millions, was able to slip quietly back into Philippine soil after a corrupt employee of a Philippine Consulate in California brazenly issued him a Philippine passport even right after Tita Cory revoked Danding’s Philippine passport.

If the Philippine Congress would like to prevent the Reodica/Cojuangco Capers from happening again, they can adopt a security scheme that will be tacked into the U.S. Senate Bill 744 (Border, Security, Economic Opportunity and Immigration Act).

Under this Senate bill, the U.S. will install a high-tech system tracking the movements of immigrants and other foreigners when leaving the United States by installing it at major U.S. airports.

At the moment, the United States, Japan and other countries have a system that would require foreigners and even U.S. immigrants to undergo fingerprints, taking of photos and other biometric recordings at the port of entry. If the new arrivals refuse to undergo identification processing, they will be forced back to their countries of origin.

By keeping the personal information of the new arrivals, the U.S. government will be able to tell if the newcomers have overstayed their visas. If they commit crimes in the U.S. soil, their personal information collected at the U.S. port of entry will be used to identify them.

If this record collecting and record keeping are being done by other countries, why can’t the Philippines give them a dose of their own medicine? Bakit sila lang ba ang puedeng gumawa nito?

In fact, I would suggest, the personal data collection should be expanded to the entire Philippine population to weed out the undesirable foreigners in the Philippines, who have overstayed their visas and are either criminals or terrorists hiding in the Philippines. They could be common law violators who broke their immigration status by transacting business without paying their income taxes. Remember Australian Andrew James McBurnie, who was extorting P60-million from a Philippine contractor? Did he ever pay Philippine taxes?

SCOTUS CIVIL-RIGHTS FRIENDLY RULING

A recent ruling of the SCOTUS (Supreme Court of the U.S.) made personal data collection by the government among its citizens a little bit friendlier. According to the ruling that could have a persuasive ramifications in the Philippines, “when officers make an arrest supported by probable cause to hold a suspect for a serious offense and bring him to the station to be detained in custody, taking and analyzing a cheek swab of the arrestee’s DNA is, like fingerprinting and photographing, a legitimate police booking procedure that is reasonable under the Fourth Amendment. (Maryland v. King, Oct. 2012 Term).

As you know the U.S.’s Fourth Amendment is similar to Sec. 2, Art. III of the Bill of Rights of the Philippine Constitution. It says, “The right of the people to be secure in their persons, houses, papers, and effects against unreasonable searches and seizure of whatever nature and for any purpose shall be inviolable, and no search warrant or warrant of arrest shall issue except upon probable cause to be determined personally by the judge after examination…”

The SCOTUS was, in effect, saying that when collecting a DNA sample, by rubbing a cotton swab against the person’s cheek to obtain sufficient tissue sample for DNA testing, because it is painless, police do not need to obtain a warrant, in contrast to drawing of blood sample from non-consenting suspect (Missouri v. McNeeley, Oct. 2012 Term).

By mid-1990’s Reodica was able to flee to Australia, where he continued his fraudulent spree, victimizing several dozens more of his Filipino kababayans (countrymates), by dealing in real estate business and assuming another name: Roberto Abrian Coscolluela, Jr.

Last year, thinking that nobody can track him down anymore after 18 years of absence and because he has a new Australian passport and a new name, Coscolluela attempted to enter the United States in Los Angeles, California airport.

TREASURE TROVE OF INFO

When he submitted to fingerprint, photo and biometric processing at the airport, his fingerprints generated a match to his outstanding 1994 warrant of arrest. Reodica/Coscolluela was promptly arrested. He is up for court trial for multiple fraud on Oct. 22, 2013.

If the Philippine government will put up a kiosk to take photos, collect fingerprints and biometrics from each of the arriving foreigner in all Philippine airports even after the foreigner presented his passport, the Philippine government will have a treasure trove of database that will give it the ability to tell if the foreigner has overstayed his visa or not.

If the Philippine government can also put in place a system that can monitor everybody departing from the airport, the database will have the capability to stop the departure of anybody, who might have committed a crime while in the Philippines.

The database collection will be able to arrest the endless entry into the country of Chinese, who, according to urban legend, live forever in the Philippines. I was told when a Chinese dies in the Philippines, his identity will be assumed by a new arriving Chinese.

Many arriving Koreans, Indians, Vietnamese and other foreigners, who are visiting the country, are also doing business in the Philippines in violation of their visas or free visas. But because they don’t want to get caught, these visitors employ Filipinos as dummies in their businesses. They would refuse to issue receipts to customers not only to escape detection of their immigration status but also to evade paying income taxes.

By extending visa-free period for foreign nationals from 151 countries starting Aug. 1 this year, which would allow them to stay for 30 days in the Philippines, I am sure, the Philippines will be able to detect a lot of those escaping criminal prosecutions from their countries of origin. If they are drug dealers, for instance, they can easily buy fraudulent passports, like what Cojuangco did, by using their money and clout back home, to get things done. The Philippines should be able to trip them up after collecting and keeping their personal information and deporting them back to their original destination.

I suggest that the Philippine government should expand the collection of personal information to all Filipinos, who do not have Philippine passports and other identification cards.

Although, President Aquino is cool to the adoption of a national identification system, proponents of this bill, like Albay Rep. Francis Bichara who introduced House Bill 11 or the Filipino ID, should enlist the overwhelming support of members from both chambers to easily override a presidential veto.

In order for a national ID that has fingerprints, biometrics, photos and other unique information to be tamper-proof, its form and design should be replaced from time to time to discourage fraud.

If every Filipino has an ID, he can use it as a personal ID, like a driver’s license or school ID or passport. He can also use it in voting in elections and conducting business transactions. The ID system can easily detect fraud or duplication, for instance, if someone applies for Conditional Cash Transfer and DSWD and other government benefits.

To deter handlers of national ID from abusing and misusing personal information in the database, like the Philippine Consulate employee, who issued Cojuangco an illegal and fraudulent passport, Congress must impose abusers and anyone who misuses personal information of other people a minimum sentence of imprisonment of 10 or 15 years and a hefty fine or restitution of at least one million pesos. (lariosa_jos@sbcglobal.net)

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