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SC grants TRO on centralization of gun licensing

Edu Punay (The Philippine Star) - April 9, 2014 - 12:00am

BAGUIO CITY, Philippines – Police were stopped yesterday from enforcing a new firearms licensing system provided under Republic Act 10591, the Comprehensive Firearms and Ammunition Regulation Act of 2013.

Issuing the temporary restraining order (TRO) in Baguio City, the Supreme Court (SC) stopped all centralized gun regulatory processes, including requirements, testing and licensing in Camp Crame, Quezon City.

SC spokesman Theodore Te said the TRO is effective immediately and until further orders from the SC.

The TRO also covers outsourcing of firearms license delivery by courier and warrantless searches of homes in the guise of firearms inspection.

The SC granted the petitions of Gun Owners in Action (GO Act) and Peaceful Respondent Owners of Guns Inc. (PRO Gun).

Chief Superintendent Louie Oppus, Firearms and Explosives Office (FEO) director, said they will abide by the SC decision.

“We will abide by the order of PNP chief Director General Alan Purisima which is in consonance with the SC order,” he said.

In separate petitions last March 25, GO Act and  PRO Gun asked the SC to void certain provisions of the law for alleged violation of various constitutional rights.

GO Act questioned at least five sections imposing stiffer penalties for violators.

It alleged that section 4 (g) disqualifying an individual with a pending criminal case from securing a license to own and possess a firearm and to own and possess a firearm violates the constitutional presumption of innocence. A person merely accused of an offense or crime is different from one already convicted in court, it added.

Petitioners also assailed sections 10 and 26 prohibiting ownership of a light weapon from being passed through succession; section 7.3 of the implementing rules and regulations omitting engineers as among the individuals exempted from the requirement of a threat assessment and section 7.12 prohibiting the carrying of a firearm inside places of worship and commercial or public establishments.

The law’s provision allowing police to make warantless searches was also questioned for violating the constitutional right against unreasonable and illegal searches and seizures.

PRO Gun alleged that the Philippine National Police (PNP) committed grave abuse of discretion in coming up with a centralized system of gun registration.

It is “arbitrary, whimsical, and so difficult to comply with,” considering that there are 1.5 million licensed gun owners in the country spread all over the regions, it added.

The PNP has violated due process since the system of gun registration deprives licensed firearms holders of their licenses for the period after approval, when the licenses are not delivered, PRO Gun said.

Respondents  Executive Secretary Paquito Ochoa Jr., Interior Secretary Manuel Roxas II and top PNP officials led by Director General Alan Purisima have been ordered to answer the petitions.

Antipolo City Rep. Romeo Acop said yesterday the House of Representatives committee on public order and safety is set to look into the implementation of RA 10591 following criticisms on the way police are applying the law.

In a telephone interview, the committee’s vice chairman he has already filed a resolution to look into the implementing rules and regulations (IRR) of RA 10591, as well as into the missing 900 high-powered firearms in the PNP’s inventory reported no less by President Aquino.

“We have to look extensively into the IRR, how is it being implemented and check if there are any deficiencies, infirmities or even excesses in the IRR,” he said.

Acop said he has received complaints from some police officials on the way the law is being implemented, including policies apparently lopsided against legitimate and law-abiding gun owners.

“I think there’s a defect in the culture in the PNP-FEO,” he said. “When your employees are doing some shortcuts in the law, there’s definitely something wrong.”

Acop also strongly pushed for the updating of the PNP’s database on the country’s firearms.

The current database appears to be inaccurate, making it hard for the government to go after loose firearms, and could be detrimental to legitimate gun owners and distributors, he added.

Among the objections to the IRR was the policy of centralized gun registration at Camp Crame that could lead to the proliferation of loose firearms.

Acop also cited serious questions on the policy of inspecting homes of legitimate gun owners.

Earlier, Senate Deputy Minority Leader Vicente Sotto III called for a congressional review of the law, particularly the way the IRR was written.

Sotto said loose firearms might proliferate if many would have a hard time registering their guns.

“I think the congressional oversight committee should look into the IRR because of the mounting objections and apprehensions on the centralized registration,” he said. – With Cecille Suerte Felipe, Paolo Romero

ANTIPOLO CITY REP BAGUIO CITY CAMP CRAME CHIEF SUPERINTENDENT LOUIE OPPUS COMPREHENSIVE FIREARMS AND AMMUNITION REGULATION ACT DIRECTOR GENERAL ALAN PURISIMA EXECUTIVE SECRETARY PAQUITO OCHOA JR. FIREARMS FIREARMS AND EXPLOSIVES OFFICE GUN
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