National ID system has its advantages


By Louie Diangson · August 17, 2021

AUGUST 27, 2021

IN April 2020, when Socioeconomic Planning Secretary Ernesto Pernia resigned, he said he quit the Cabinet because of serious differences with other government officials — including of course President Duterte — involved in designing policy approaches to shoring up the economy in the wake of the debilitating COVID-19 pandemic.

Pernia said that “when the orchestra is not well-orchestrated, then you have a little problem. Since I seem to be a dissonant voice among others, I thought I should just quit.” In the Inter-agency Task Force then, Pernia’s task is to lead the crafting of policies that will define the new normal, help the economy recover from the crisis. He said this assignment had been completed, but the question remains: why the need to quit his post?

Sometime later, it was bruited that Pernia was actually fired for not delivering on the very basic service of starting the rollout of the National Identification (ID) System. President Duterte was angry — and Senate President Vicente Sotto III was disappointed — that after a couple of years that the law has been in place, the Executive department has not started implementing the National ID. In his anger, Duterte must have fired Pernia.

We recall Duterte saying that had we finished the National ID System on time, we could have made a seamless, reliable, and swift distribution of the subsidies under the Social Amelioration Program (SAP) of Bayanihan One when the first enhanced community quarantine was imposed.

The National Economic and Development Authority (NEDA) explained that the delivery of social services in the country is hampered by the lack of a centralized means of distributing cash transfers.

About 80 percent of beneficiaries have no bank account and they are having a hard time accessing bank services because of a lack of identification cards.

When the government distributed financial assistance last year due to the pandemic, a big percentage was still done manually, with only about 3.5 million listed under the Pantawid Pamilyang Pilipino program done through bank transfers.

In this regard, we might say that the government has improved somewhat. A report from the Land Bank of the Philippines said some 4.5 million Filipinos were able to open a bank account for the first time with the continued rollout of the national ID aimed at addressing financial inclusion, especially among the country’s low-income households.

In a report to Finance Secretary Carlos Dominguez III, the Land Bank said 4.47 million people managed to be included in the formal banking system as of the first semester. Of this number, 27 percent or 1.23 million were able to access online digital payments and other transactions, mostly in the Visayas and Central Luzon.

The National ID has been pilloried by the Makabayan bloc of leftist legislators, but it has its positive utility, as this Land Bank report indicated.