Zubiri pushes for passage of SIM card registration bill

Senate President Juan Miguel “Migz” Zubiri on Wednesday vowed to push for the passage of the SIM Card Registration bill after being a victim of an extortion attempt through text message.

“As a senator, what happened to me was one of the reasons why I am advocating for the SIM Card Registration Bill,” Zubiri said in a press conference at the Senate.

“Many people have been victimized by this modus, that is why I refiled Senate Bill No. 82, or the SIM Card Registration bill. I know that it was vetoed by the last administration, but I am hopeful that we can pass it this Congress,” he added.

He was referring to a bill that was filed in the 18th Congress in which former President Rodrigo Duterte vetoed due to a certain provision that includes social media platforms as part of the requirements.

Aside from Zubiri, Senator Grace Poe has also refiled a separate SIM Card Registration bill in the 19th Congress.

This, after he shared his experience of a recent extortion attempt against him, which has now resulted in two arrests.

Zubiri approached the Philippine National Police (PNP) after receiving a series of messages from individuals posing as Siquijor Governor Jake Vincent Villa and Board Member Abner Lomongo, extorting money for a supposed political convention.

He said he received the messages on 14 August, with the suspects demanding up to P60,000 from him.

Sensing that the messages were bogus, Zubiri immediately sought assistance from PNP Chief Rodolfo Azurin, after which the Criminal Investigation and Detection Group – Regional Field Unit National Capital Region were tapped to plan and conduct a police entrapment operation.

“I didn’t know how they got my personal contact number. But I knew from the start that they were bogus,” he said.

“However, I don’t want to let it pass because of these kinds of scams, other government officials are being affected too,” he added.

Zubiri said that he confirmed his suspicion that the message he received was a scam after his personal call with Villa, who denied such activities.

“I have heard from some of my colleagues that they have been victims of similar schemes before, so I was determined to work with the PNP to put a stop to these guys,” he said.

The entrapment operation was conducted the following day, 15 August, after the suspects agreed to meet one of Zubiri’s staff in Castillejos, Zambales, for the turnover of cash.

Two suspects were arrested for robbery, extortion, estafa, and illegal possession of firearms—one a 23-year-old male, the other a 46-year-old male, both residents of Castillejos, Zambales. The latter has previously been arrested for violation of Republic Act 9165, or the Comprehensive Dangerous Drugs Act.

The police also confiscated boodle money from the suspects, covered by one genuine marked 1000-peso bill, as well as one caliber .45 pistol without a serial number, but with seven live ammunition. The suspects failed to present a license to possess and carry.

Zubiri lauded the quick action of authorities that led to the arrests of suspects involved in text scams.

“They came armed and dangerous. It was good that nobody from my staff was hurt. I don’t know what could happen if police were not there, who knows, they could probably have used force to get what they wanted,” he said.

“I thank the PNP, particularly CIDG-RFU NCR, for leading the operation, as well as Southern DFU CIDG, and the Castillejos Police Station, Zambales PPO, where the suspects were brought,” he added.

Zubiri also issued a warning to any similar individuals or groups that are victimizing the public.

“Do not ever attempt to fool people by this, because for sure: You will all go to prison,” he said.

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