“Boredom to death”—that’s how Facebook user EJ Bautista describes his Philippine banking experience. Many Filipinos share the same sentiments. Waiting in line at a bank can be a pain in the you know.
Imagine waiting for hours just to make a deposit, encash a check, or withdraw some cash. I know I’d be frustrated, too. So what better way to while away the hours than by taking out your trusted phone and listen to music, play games or—if you really want to be productive while waiting for your turn—check and respond to your emails.
But then imagine a security officer walking up to you and telling you that’s not allowed. Bummer! I guess they want you to appreciate the ceilings or walls, make notes of the diverse fashion styles of bank clients or maybe have small chit chat with the customer next to you.
However, the reality in the Philippines is using your phone in banks is already prohibited by several cities through ordinances issued several years back. For example, in Makati, the prohibition against phone use in bank premises has been unanimously voted as City Ordinance No. 2002-121. So you can imagine why some netizens are questioning the need to enact a nationwide law when this prohibition is more or less already in place.
House Bill 5033 or the ‘Cell Phone in Banks Prohibition Act’
Bulacan Rep. Gavini Pancho drafted the bill in question. He seeks to ban phone use in Philippine banks to “prevent criminal activity,” reports the Inquirer. The congressman reasons that the use of phones, laptops, palmtops, radios, and similar equipment “have been exploited for illicit activities”.
The bill applies to both bank clients and employees. However, there is one exception. The bill allows medical doctors and emergency health care workers to use their phones when such use is “related to the care of patients and other emergencies”.
Addressing the Root of the Problem
Even though the prohibition against phone use inside banks is currently in place in many locations nationwide, netizens were still quick to give their opinions about the bill. Most of the responses are not good though.
“Stupid” is how many netizens describe the new proposed law. Here’s why:
For one, it limits basic freedom. Under the Bill of Rights (Article III) Section 4, “No law shall be passed abridging the freedom of speech…” Atty. Rod Vera argues in this piece why using mobile phones in banks is a Constitutional right. To sum it up, here’s what Atty. Vera says:
I surmise that banks are preventing the use of mobile phones to prevent bank robberies. That logic is as stretchy as Mister Fantastic’s arms. We can’t use the “ends justifies the means” sense to defend this. It is actually the reverse in law.
To prevent crime, one CANNOT suppress Constitutional Rights. That is what martial law is for. Has there been any link of mobile phone use to bank robberies? If we use that reason, then we should ban knifes in restaurants because they can be used for harm. We should ban barbeque grills because the matches used to start the charcoal can cause fires. What controls our society is “the means justifies the end.”
In this country it is “innocent until proven guilty”. However, in this case, it is “criminal unless proven innocent”, says one Yugatech commenter.
Others argue that the bill does not address the root of the problem. They recommend for the government to address bank robberies by fixing inefficient law enforcement and slow justice system in the country.
But the government is not the only one to be blamed. Banks, too, have to do their fair share. According to netizens, banks should be more efficient so customers don’t have to wait in line for too long. Bank security needs to be tightened as well.
Meanwhile, others suggest using a signal jammer instead of banning phones in banks.
Some say the bill is only a “band-aid solution” and suggest the implementation of a national SIM card registry, arguing that only those with bad or illegal intentions would not allow it.
Someone said even threatened to “dry out” his bank account if he should be imprisoned for texting inside a bank.