Estrada: Online death verification can detect, prevent identity theft

(MANILA STANDARD) Senator Jinggoy Ejercito Estrada said setting up an online death verification system in the country will facilitate early detection and prevention of identity theft of deceased persons.

He said it was proven during Senate investigations that the names of deceases were being used in many instances, including fraudulent payment claims, election cheating, and other forms of deception.

Estrada noted that criminals and syndicates have been exploiting the lack of immediate access to death data in carrying out their fraudulent activities and corrupt practices.

He recalled the case of the multibillion-peso bogus claims paid by the Philippine Health Insurance Corporation (PhilHealth) to dialysis treatment centers uncovered in 2019.

“Those funds that were intended for the poor and in actual need of medical assistance ended up in the hands of owners of private dialysis centers,” Estrada said.

“This ‘ghost dialysis’ scheme involving the filing of claims before PhilHealth on behalf of dead patients highlighted the weaknesses in the bureaucracy and provided an impetus for stronger anti-fraud mechanisms,” he added.

Estrada also said he will file a bill proposing the establishment of the Philippine Death Check (PDC) Register, a centralized electronic database containing mortality data registered with the Local Civil Registrar (LCR) to be managed by the Philippine Statistics Authority (PSA).

Under the proposed “Online Death Verification System Act,” once the death of a person is registered with the LCR, the information shall be immediately uploaded with the PDC Register Electronic System.

The PSA shall ensure the security and integrity of the PDC by safeguarding its data from breaches and other modes of tampering for the purpose of committing fraud.

The bill, Estrada said, could also help in purging the list of registered voters as he noted that names of those who have already departed are used by unscrupulous individuals to manipulate the results of poll exercises.

To establish an efficient, integrated, and centralized online death verification system, the PSA shall allow immediate access to information to PhilHealth, the Commission on Elections (Comelec), Government Service Insurance System (GSIS), Social Security System (SSS), Home Development Mutual Fund (HDMF), and Philippine Veterans Affairs Office (PVAO) to ensure early detection and prevention of identity fraud.

Provisions of the Data Privacy Act of 2012 on the processing of personal information shall still be strictly complied with, Estrada stressed.

Fines ranging from P500,000 to as much as P4 million, as well as imprisonment of three to six years will be meted to those found to have committed an intentional breach of information.