Editorial: Crackdown on loose firearms

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Sunday, July 28, 2013

LAST Friday was fatal for the confluence of money, guns, and motorcycles.

Three separate drive-by shootings took place within less than 10 minutes in Cebu, reported Jill B. Tatoy and USJR Mass Com intern Jessica Villaver in Sun.Star Cebu’s July 27 issue.

At 9 a.m., two assailants on a black motorcycle killed Christopher Sarmiento when he stopped for a red light on B. Aranas Ext. in Barangay Duljo Fatima, Cebu City.


About five minutes later on T. Padilla Ext. in Barangay Tejero, Cebu City, Rodrigo and Juliet Alma Barquero were in their way to hear mass when they were fired upon and injured by two men in a black motorcycle.

In Talisay City, at 12:20 a.m., Rey Gallos and his wife were motoring home when two men on a motorcycle shot him at Barangay Lawaan III. His wife tried to bring the injured Rey to safety but his attackers overtook their tricycle and shot him again, killing him.

Limp law

Comments posted on www.sunstar.com.ph to last Friday’s drive-by shooting incidents decried the proliferation of loose firearms and the lack of police visibility to enforce peace and order on the streets.

Poor enforcement is the crux of the problem that makes the community vulnerable to contract killing or murder-for-hire, which is alarming in itself but more so as it seems to be currently on the rise.

According to the same Sun.Star Cebu report, Gallos was seen arguing with a vendor in Barangay Tabunok hours before he was killed. The vendor reportedly threatened Gallos.

The authorities have still to make a dent in the prevention of the occurrence of drive-by shootings, which threaten private individuals and the public, who are at risk of injuries or death from stray bullets.

Exacerbating this limp enforcement is the ease with which lawless elements can get hold of the tools of choice in this illicit trade: motorcycles and loose firearms.

Ironically, the regulation requiring all motorcycle riders to wear a helmet and the lack of existing or functioning closed-circuit television (TV) cameras at intersections aid the impunity of those engaged to kill a person or persons for profit.

Mirroring a trend in other cities, the contract killings in Cebu indicate that the “rub-outs” are carried out by professionals and amateurs. This underscores our distress and vexation: why cannot the law be enforced?

New teeth

Last May 29, President Benigno Aquino III signed into law Republic Act (RA) 10591, also known as the Comprehensive Firearms and Ammunition Regulation Act.

This will take effect in September this year. RA 10591’s implementing rules and regulations will “regulate firearms in the hands of ordinary civilians,” reported The Philippine Star in its July 27 issue.

When implemented, gunsmiths will be required to take out licenses to repair registered firearms, among other provisions.

However, the new law does not address “paltik” manufacturers. According to Chief Supt. Raul Petrasanta, chief of the Firearms and Explosives Office (FEO), the “paltik” manufacturers in Danao and Cebu are “not mentioned in RA 10591,” reported The Philippine Star.

The backyard or home-based “paltik” industry involves individuals who have no license to create guns from scrap metal. Prominent not only in street hold-ups, murder-for-hire and armed robbery, unlicensed guns are fired by revelers during Christmas eve and New Year’s eve, gangs, children, and substance abusers who run amok.

Last June, the number of loose firearms was reportedly cut by 50 percent through the election gun ban and Oplan Katok, the Philippine National Police (PNP) claimed in a June 14 report in The Philippine Star. Oplan Katok was launched by the PNP FEO to crack down on loose firearms.

In a May 23, 2013 article in the Philippine Daily Inquirer, the PNP vowed to continue searching for some 400,000 firearms that remain unregistered around the country.

More than 610,000 guns had to have their licenses renewed, based on PNP FEO records as of August 2012. This figure does not include guns never licensed with the FEO as these were either smuggled into the country or illegally manufactured.

Will RA 10591 seriously add teeth to the search for loose firearms?

Published in the Sun.Star Cebu newspaper on July 29, 2013.


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