President Duterte blamed the leftists for the delay in the distribution of subsidy funds to the poor who lost their income due to the COVID-19 crisis. The President lamented that had the leftists not opposed the national ID system, the distribution of the subsidy would have been expedited.
The President declared: “We have no ID system until now. If we have the ID system we could have avoided these delays.” Who is really to blame for the absence of a national ID system?
We have a law establishing a national ID system. President Duterte signed Republic Act No. 11055 or the Philippine Identification System Act (PhilSys Act) on Aug. 6, 2018. The Philippine Statistics Authority (PSA) issued the implementing rules and regulations (IRR) on Oct. 5, 2018.
The leftists have given up opposing the national ID system upon enactment of the PhilSys Act. No one filed a case before the Supreme Court questioning the constitutionality of the PhilSys Act. There is no legal impediment to the implementation of the PhilSys Act.
Under the PhilSys Act and its IRR, every citizen and resident alien shall personally register in designated centers to provide his or her demographic data and biometric information. The mandatory demographic data are: full name, sex, date of birth, place of birth, blood type, permanent address, and whether a Filipino citizen or resident alien. The mandatory biometric information are: front facing photograph, full set of fingerprints, and iris scan. Every registered person will receive a unique PhilSys Number (PSN).
Obviously, the full implementation of the PhilSys Act requires a huge budget since it involves the registration of some 110 million people. For 2019, the PSA requested a budget of P6.2 billion to register 25 million people. The PSA, however, was given only P2.09 billion in the 2019 General Appropriations Act (GAA).
For 2020, the PSA requested P7.9 billion, but unfortunately the PSA was given only a P2.0 billion budget in the programmed appropriation in the 2020 GAA. As consuelo de bobo, the 2020 GAA allocated P2.4 billion in the unprogrammed fund to implement the PhilSys Act.
Money allocated in the unprogrammed fund, however, are standby appropriations that cannot be drawn unless actual government revenue collections exceed what is needed to support the programmed appropriations. Even in the best of times, the actual revenue collections rarely exceed the programmed appropriations. With the lockdown due to COVID-19, it is simply impossible for government revenue collections to exceed the programmed appropriations.
The President can realign savings in the 2020 GAA to fund the implementation of the PhilSys Act. The President can also realign savings in the 2019 GAA to augment the P2.09 billion item in the 2019 GAA to implement the PhilSys Act. President Duterte approved on Dec. 20, 2019 RA No. 11464 extending the availability of all appropriations in the 2019 GAA up to Dec. 31, 2020.
The President can also call Congress to a special session to amend the 2020 GAA to provide an item to implement the PhilSys Act, in the same way that he called Congress to a special session to provide funding to address the COVID-19 crisis. Bottomline, the ball is in the President’s court.
Even with adequate funding, the PhilSys Act cannot be implemented during the lockdown period. People will have to travel to registration centers and that means taking public or private transportation. The PSA had projected a three-year nationwide registration period for our 110 million population, ending in mid-2022 had the registration started in mid-2019 as planned. With the 10-month delay, the PhilSys Act will unlikely be fully implemented, even with adequate funding, by the time President Duterte leaves office noon of June 30, 2022.