SUN.STAR Bacolod reader Hermilo "Boni" Tongson Jr. emailed his reaction over my "OK Corral Bacolod" column. He mentioned that the PNP's mandate to "protect the citizens 24 hours a day 7 days a week only insults the intelligence of the public. Because, even the world's finest law enforcement agencies cannot protect their citizens 24/7."

Tongson, however, seems to have mixed up "protection" with "prevention." Not even Japan has totally prevented crimes against life and property from happening. Japan, as the PNP pointed out, has a very low crime rate even while the country has imposed a total gun ban among Japanese civilians.

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Contrast that with the USA, a country that has constitutionally guaranteed the American people the right to bear arms. Yet the country suffers from a high crime rate, especially in Washington DC, the nation's capital. Cable TV news often features horrific stories of students who mow down their classmates and teachers with semi-automatic weapons bought over the counter.

The PNP early this year pushed for a permanent total gun ban, noting a marked decline in the crime rate since its implementation on January10 to June 9. Police officers arrested almost 3,000 people, including over 200 government employees when the Commission on Elections ordered the ban in place.

I wouldn't be surprised that many of those arrested are law-abiding citizens who bought and carry these guns for their protection. I wonder though what he would say-if he was still alive today, that is-when law-abiding citizen Rolito Go, who out of road rage, shot and killed Eldon Maguan with a licensed gun.

How do the PNP protect Filipinos? The PNP's current five-year workplan calls for attaining a police-population ratio of 1:525 by this year, and 1:500 by 2012; solve five percent of unsolved cases; serve 20 percent of warrants of arrest received starting 2005; 5 percent annual decrease in incidence of common crimes against property from 2005-2010.

In other words, most of the PNP's key result areas call for serving warrants of arrests and actually arresting suspects. Protection through prevention is best served and impunity deterred when law enforcement agencies assure felons that they'll be punished based on due process of law.

Tongson writes, "Why are the PNP not liable if they don't answer our 166 call when we call for help? Should we as citizens depend entirely to the PNP for our protection? If it's really the responsibility of the PNP to protect the media and the people, why can't we sue them if they come too little too late in aiding the victims of a crime when they called for help?"

The PNP is liable if they fail to respond to calls for help. Juan and María de la Cruzes should file complaints against police officers who are remiss or negligent on their duties to protect us. We don't pay their salaries so they can fail us in fulfilling their duties and responsibilities. Let's kick these bums out of the service if not put them behind bars, pronto.

Of course, I can understand Tongson's frustrations. The PNP has been doing quite a lousy job in crime detection, based on the PNP's own reports. Cynical civilians are out for blood, pushing for lynch mob justice, demanding Duterte or Alfredo Lim's Dirty Harry solutions to curb criminality.

But as Go and Jason Ivler taught us, the cure could be worse than the disease. A blogger pointed in an online debate, "How many of the 'law-abiding' gun owners underwent the actual process in acquiring their gun license (neuro/psychiatric tests, etc.)?"

The blogger did a Michael Moore "Bowling for Columbine" test a few years back when he became interested in guns. He found out that one can apply for a gun license without any personal appearance. He said gun stores will take care of everything-for an additional fee, of course. An applicant just needs to give the required documents: IDs, income tax returns, certificate of employment (for private employees). His conclusion: Not all those who claim to be "responsible" and "law abiding" gun owners may not be so responsible and law-abiding after all when buying the weapons.

Am I implying, as Tongson wrote, that "firearm holders are synonymous" with criminals? He concedes that while not everyone is "temperamentally or mentally suited to keep and bear arms" but "we should not also hinder those that are responsible and law-abiding citizens to have the freedom to protect themselves and their families."

I re-read what I wrote in the previous column and on this one. To say that I'm implying that gun holders ARE criminals even in its broad context is quite a stretch. That's carrying my contentions to their illogical conclusion. I draw the line with unfair generalizations. Not all gun-wielders are Gos-Ivlers in-the-making. Nor did I say that all gun buyers do it "legally" by bending the law.

The problem, though, is how to differentiate the legitimate law-abiders from the "law-abiding" poseurs. I shudder at that thought that an unarmed guy like me would have no protection from gun-toting people. Come to think of it, when armed illegal loggers and the RPA-ABB threatened me and my staff in the Northern Negros Forest Reserve early last decade, we refused to carry firearms. Instead, we relied on the people's organization and the Philippine Army to protect us.

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