CEBU

Nalzaro: For lawyers' safety or for IBP election?

Saksi

I USED to own and possess licensed firearms: a .9mm and .22 pistol. I used to carry these guns every time I left my residence, especially if I went out of town, because I was able to secure permits to carry firearms outside of the residence. But two years ago, I decided to “surrender” these firearms to the Police Regional Office 7’s firearms and explosives unit for safekeeping when I failed to renew their licenses. Until now, the guns are there.

Due to the murders of lawyers here and in other places, some members of the legal profession have been alarmed. A group of lawyers from the Integrated Bar of the Philippines (IBP) Cebu chapter have come up with a proposal in what they termed “Lawyer Protection Program for Cebu Lawyers.”

They formulated and proposed the following; 1) assessing the threat, 2) relocating the threatened lawyer or judge to a safe house, 3) close-in security, 4) training the lawyer to detect the threat, 5) dodging danger and harm and 6) possession of firearms.

Okay, first things first.

On the proposal to arm themselves. I think there is no problem because owning a gun for self-protection is a law-abiding citizen’s right and privilege for as long as he or she can comply with the tedious requirements. And lawyers are qualified to possess firearms.

Republic Act (RA) 10591, signed by then President Benigno Aquino III in 2014, states: “People working in these sectors — along with nurses, engineers, bank tellers and lawyers — are considered ‘in imminent danger due to their profession’ and will be allowed to carry small guns when outside of their homes. To qualify for a special firearms permit, people in these professions have to pass drug and psychiatric tests and show they don’t have any criminal conviction or pending cases for crimes with punishment of more than two years in prison.”

This law relaxes the requirements of the previous gun law, RA 8294, under which they had to prove they were under “actual threat” of danger to carry a firearm.

There are two ways to legally possess a firearm.

If you buy it from a legitimate gun store, the store will process the license to possess. With that, it will qualify you to legally possess a firearm. But for you to carry your firearm outside of residence, you have to secure a Permit to Carry Firearm Outside of Residence (PTCFOR) to be issued by the PNP (Philippine National Police) chief through the chief of the PNP firearms and explosives unit. Only the PNP can issue a PTCFOR, not the military unit or any other law enforcement agency.

So what do these lawyers want? They want to relax the requirements to accommodate them? They want any Tom, Dick and Harry to automatically possess a firearm because he is a lawyer? What is so special with lawyers? Media people whose profession is also considered highly dangerous will complain and demand the same privilege.

On relocating to a safe house: What do these lawyers want? To be treated like persons under the Witness Protection Program with the government spending for them? Oh, come on. Again, what is so special with lawyers that they will use government resources for their protection? But you know, if you are a target of liquidation, you can still be located even if you hide. Killers will also conduct surveillance and casing on the routine and movements of their target before they stage the attack. Active law enforcers who are trained in gun handling and are proficient in shooting even get killed by an assassin’s bullets.

On close-in security: Well, if a lawyer is really under threat, he can ask security escorts from the PNP security and protection unit like politicians and businessmen. However, I am not privy to the requirements and arrangement between the applicant and the PNP unit. But if they are granted police escorts, so should other requesting parties like media people. Our police personnel will no longer be able to focus on their main duty of protecting the public against criminal elements because they use their resources for a selected few and favored ones like lawyers. If lawyers want their own close-in security, by all means they can hire a battalion of security personnel from a private security agency but not use government resources.

I have so many friends from the legal profession, and I can understand their concerns. But why don’t they ask authorities to look deeper into the cases of lawyers Joey Luis Wee, James Gupana and Maria Concepcion Landero-Ole if their attacks had something to do with their profession?

According to the alleged killer of Wee, Fausto Edgar Peralta, who is now in the custody of the National Bureau of Investigation 7, the original plan was to include Wee’s wife in the killing but there was a last-minute instruction to spare her. Is Wee’s wife a lawyer? I was informed that Gupana is no longer active in court litigation because of his age. He has been ambushed twice. Why don’t they look into his alleged involvement in land disputes? And why don’t they look into the illegal drug angle on the case of Ole, whose late husband was a convicted drug dealer?

I hope this group of lawyers who worry about their safety and protection are not using these lawyers’ murders for their personal agenda. I was informed that the IBP Cebu province election is scheduled on Feb. 27 and some of the signatories of this manifesto are eyeing IBP positions and that they are doing this move to gain support from colleagues.

Why did they not coordinate their move with the outgoing board?


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