Guns gone-A A +A
Wednesday, February 27, 2013
WHAT was Private First Class Mark Abello of the 602nd Infantry Battalion thinking when he tucked a .45 caliber pistol in his waistband at the 888 Chinatown Square mall? He was in civvies, was not in an official mission, and had no IDs with him.
Now, his .45 firearm is gone, so is freedom. He was caught by PO3 Emmanuel Alonsagay of the Bacolod City Police Trackers team last Friday, about the same time I was at the mall for a snack. Abello faces not a showdown at high noon at OK Corral but charges for violation of the Omnibus Election Code.
Salute to the Bacolod City Police Office for a job well done. Silent waters run deep for the arrest of lawbreakers. ¡Bien hecho! The arrest was done smoothly that it failed to create a stir inside the mall.
Abello's arrest ups the number of arrested gun ban violators in Bacolod City to 17. Since the gun ban was implemented, 54 cases have been filed, and 14 are still under investigation. Nationwide, 555 people have been arrested and 488 firearms have been seized since the ban took effect since January 13, as of February 6.
The election gun ban seems to have been effective so far, claims Commission on Elections (Comelec) Chair Sixto Brillantes. He cited a Philippine National Police (PNP) report that shows a lower crime rate.
Yet violations of the gun ban itself has steadily risen.
Most of those arrested, a total of 493, are civilians, followed by 40 security guards, 11 police officers, eight government officials, a firefighter, a soldier, and a member of the Citizens Armed Force Geographical Unit.
The firearms were seized in joint checkpoint operations by the PNP, the Armed Force of the Philippines and other law enforcement agencies, under COMELEC supervision.
In Metro Manila, the crime rate fell by 60 percent despite the series of killings and daring robberies in malls. According to the PNP, the first month of 2013 was more peaceful than in the same period last year. Based on data from the PNP's Directorate for Operations, 1,218 index crimes occurred in January 2013, much lower than the 3,021 crimes reported in January 2012.
The lobby group Peaceful Responsible Owners of Guns, (PROGUN) contests the COMELEC and PNP figures, however. Says its website, "In the two weeks of the COMELEC Gun Ban 2013, we have recorded for this first month of January, 341 violent crime incidents in which there were 157 injuries and 313 fatalities, as of 31 January 2013.
Since its inception, PROGUN has been pushing to make it easier for citizens to own and carry guns, arguing that if licensing were cheaper and more convenient, the general public would opt to own legally registered firearms instead of resorting to the use of unregistered guns or "loose firearms."
The lobby gun pointed the "spectacular robberies/ hold-ups in the heart of Metro Manila, high profile murders and assassinations of politicians and businessmen, courtroom murders and violence, and ambushes resulting in massacres of innocent civilians, police, and soldiers." To prove its case, PROGUN cited the January 27, 2013 NPA massacre of armed law enforcers and civilians at Bgy. Puso, La Castellana.
Of course, PROGUN failed to point out that the law enforcers were armed with licensed firearms, and yet those guns failed to protect them from the ambushers. Besides, the lobby tends to oversimplify the equation of the internal armed conflict into loose versus licensed firearms.
No, my problem with the gun ban is that after the elections, the ban will be gone. And people the likes of PFC Abello et al will be back in business, strutting in our malls with guns.
It's a State obligation for the government to protect citizens from lawless elements. I hold that it's better to strengthen the PNP's forensics science than to loosen the reins to make civilian gun procurement easier.
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Published in the Sun.Star Bacolod newspaper on February 27, 2013.