CANDIDATE AQUINO REJECTED TOTAL GUN BAN
Public notice appeared to have turned to President Aquino, a gun lover, amid the heightened debates over gun ownership laws in the country after a series of brutal shooting incidences that killed mostly children.
The Palace tried to quickly fend off criticisms on Aquino being a firearms enthusiast, saying the discussions on gun control should be focused on the “level of policies” and not the personal preference of Aquino.
As a candidate for president in 2010, Aquino had rejected suggestions for a total gun ban, saying it would be better to consider proposals for stricter enforcement of laws banning firearms outside of residences.
“If laws are rigidly enforced, good police work can solve crimes committed by outlaws,” Aquino, who engages in practical shooting as a hobby, said.
Deputy presidential spokesman Abigail Valte dismissed Siquijor Rep. Orlando Fua’s suggestion that Aquino give up his guns amid the spate of gun-related crimes.
Valte had said that it is “an unwarranted assumption” that Aquino would not support a gun ban.
Stray bullets from guns fired during the New Year’s Eve revelry killed at least two children while eight people, including children, were slain the other day in a shooting rampage in Cavite.
Valte added that tougher gun laws would be “a question for legislation.”
“When it comes to the total gun ban, that is something that has to be discussed with the President because I was monitoring yesterday, and even the Gunless Society was not proposing a total gun ban but all these proposals will have to be discussed with the President,” she added.
Twenty bills on gun control are pending in Congress but most have been languishing in the archives for years.
The chief of police of Kawit, Cavite police, meanwhile, was sacked from his post pending police investigation into the Cavite bloodbath that killed at least eight people and the wounding of several others.
Kawit police head Chief Inspector Joel Saliba was relieved from his post upon the order of Philippine National Police (PNP) chief director general Alan Purisima.
Aside from Saliba, the entire police force in Kawit, Cavite was also being investigated in relation to the massacre.
Purisima said an investigation team is now conducting a deeper probe to determine the lapses of the entire Kawit police who were criticized for their slow response to the shooting spree.
Purisima said an initial investigation showed that the Kawit police responded quickly when they were alerted about the shooting spree.
However, the plea for police help reportedly was not made immediately after the incident occured.
Calabarzon regional police director Chief Supt. James Melad said they are looking into alleged lapses by the Cavite police in responding to the massacre as he vowed not to spare any police personnel found negligent in responding promptly to the incident. Saliba may face administrative relief if found liable.
Eight people, including a pregnant woman and two children were killed while 11 others were wounded when the lone gunman identified as Ronaldo Bae, 41, went on a shooting spree at 9 a.m., Friday. Bae was killed by responding policemen.
Police initial findings showed that Bae had been involved in drugs and has a drug case in Cavite some three years ago.
The alleged companion of Bae during the shooting spree, identified as John Paul Lopez, was also placed in police custody yesterday.
Police report disclosed that it was Lopez who helped Bae in reloading his gun. In his statement to the media, Lopez said he tried to stop the gunman but Bae did not listen to him.
Witnesses told police the arrested suspect helped reload a semi-automatic pistol as the gunman, later killed by police, went house to house looking for neighbors to shoot at a slum in Kawit town outside Manila.
Lopez, the caretaker of Bae’s house, said he was blameless because the gunman forced him at gunpoint to load the clip of the .45-calibre pistol between the shootings, Cerbo said.
“If that is proven false, he would be charged with many murders,” Cerbo added.
The arrested suspect tested positive for methamphetamine, an illegal stimulant, said Kawit police investigator Plaridel Daprosa.
He told AFP the authorities were looking into the possibility that the murder spree, which police said was preceded by a four-day drug and alcohol binge, was triggered by problems in Bae’s marriage.
“That’s a possible reason that we’re looking into. We know that the couple split a few months back,” Daprosa added.
Cerbo, the national police spokesman, said 12 people were being treated for gunshot wounds in hospitals in Manila and Cavite following the rampage.
Police said a pregnant woman and four children were among those shot, and that two of the children had died.
They said Bae, whom police believe to be in his early 40s, had been an elected member of the village council but left the community after being defeated in a 2010 ballot for the post of village chief.
Bae and Lopez began their drink and methamphetamine binge on New Year’s Eve, according to governor Juanito Victor Remulla, governor of Cavite province where Kawit is located.
Derrick Carreon, spokesman for the Philippine Drug Enforcement Agency, said that drug use may have played a role in the killings, explaining that frequent methamphetamine use can lead to anti-social or even psychotic behaviour.
“They may start seeing demons during withdrawal. You take it from there,” he told AFP Saturday.
Methamphetamine is the most commonly used narcotic by the nearly two million illegal drug users in the country, Carreon added.
Friday’s shooting rampage followed the New Year’s Eve deaths of two children by celebratory gunfire in Manila, which has triggered outrage and condemnation of the Philippines’ poorly enforced gun laws.
There were 1.2 million registered firearms in the country last year, with another 600,000 unlicensed weapons in circulation, according to police.
But pro-gun lobby spokesman Ernesto Tabujara said Saturday it was unfair to punish licenced firearms owners like himself with a gun ban for the shooting deaths in Kawit as well as the two young victims of stray bullets in Manila.
Less than one percent of gun crimes in the Philippines were committed by licensed gun owners, said Tabujara, secretary-general of Pro-Gun Philippines.
“We feel we have an inadequate number of policemen protecting our citizens... Our 125,000 policemen could not possibly guard and protect 100 million Filipinos,” he told AFP.
“In the critical moments before the police arrive (at a crime scene), homeowners have a right to protect themselves and their families.”
Zambales Rep. Mitos Magsaysay expressed her deep sadness over the senseless shooting spree in Cavite.
“It is unfathomable that such an incident would happen here in the Philippines, because I have always believed that our culture, which is so deeply ingrained in us since we were children, has taught us the value and sanctity of life. To hear that somebody would randomly kill people, aided by an accomplice no less is shocking and saddening,” said Magsaysay.
“An investigation should be launched as to whether or not there was really a prior complaint lodged against the gunman and why the police did not do anything about it. It was common knowledge that the crackdown on firearms was in full force before and after the New Year revelry. And if there was a complaint against the shooter Ronald Bae as early as Jan. 2, and authorities responded appropriately, then this incident could have been averted. A neutral investigation into the truth of the reports should be launched immediately to hold those responsible accountable,” the lady solon stressed.
Actually, a complaint had already been lodged against Bae as early as New Year’s Eve when his neighbors in Kawit, Cavite alerted police the two-term barangay councilman had fired a gun.
However, the complaint was apparently ignored, and for the next few days, Bae, also known in the neighborhood as Bossing and Robin Hood, reportedly went on a drinking spree with his household caretaker, John Paul Lopez. Yesterday, Bae, armed with a caliber .45 Colt, went on a shooting rampage, shooting even a pregnant woman and her five-year-old daughter. It was also reported that Lopez even helped him reload his gun.
Bae however was later killed by the responding policemen after he refused to surrender and give up his firearm.
Magsaysay said that the incident, on top of the illegal firing of arms during the New Year revelry, which resulted in injuries as well as the death a little girl should serve as a wake up call to push stricter penalties for irresponsible gun use and illegal possession of firearms.
“At present, the penalties of imprisonment for several months is not serving as a deterrent for those who indiscriminately fire their weapons. They treat it as a sport. They fire their weapons without regard to the danger they pose to their communities and challenge the police to weed them out,” said Magsaysay.
“In the case of Bae, he was not even hiding. He was shooting people point blank as if they were targets. Its time we do something about it before this becomes a trend,” said the Zambales solon.
With Charlie V. Manalo and AFP