Lacson eyes probe of guns with same serial numbers

The Philippine Star

MANILA, Philippines - Sen. Panfilo Lacson is considering an inquiry into reports of firearms with similar serial numbers seized by the Philippine National Police (PNP) in the course of the war on drugs.

Lacson raised the possibility that the guns are being “recycled” to make it appear that drug suspects fought back or “nanlaban,” forcing police to kill them.

Lacson told dzMM yesterday that the report is “worrisome.” He said he would ask Sen. Richard Gordon, chairman of the Senate justice committee, to hold an executive session with officials of the PNP Firearms and Explosives Office (FEO).

The PNP said yesterday it would check if the weapons were duly registered with the FEO.

Chief Supt. Cesar Hawthorne Binag, FEO director, said he had directed his staff to look into the registration of firearms with similar serial numbers.

But Binag explained that as a matter of procedure, investigators handling the case should file requests with the FEO for verification.

He said the FEO could not just reveal the identity or identities of persons involved as a matter of privacy.

Binag assured the public that the FEO has been improving mechanisms to ensure only legitimate firearms holders are given license to own and possess firearms.

Reports had it that the recovery of multiple guns with the same serial numbers at various crime scenes in Quezon City in the past six months has magnified the continuing problem of the proliferation of loose firearms amid the Duterte administration’s anti-crime campaign.

At least 35 serial numbers of firearms recovered by the Quezon City Police District (QCPD) in anti-crime operations were found to be registered multiple times with the PNP FEO database.

The STAR reported yesterday that based on PNP data, 29 of 300 guns seized by the police in separate anti-drug operations since July 1, 2016 had identical serial numbers.

These guns were among the 57 firearms recovered in 26 encounters between the police and crime suspects.

The recovered firearms were not limited to having “twins,” the street term for firearms with similar serial numbers, as one serial number was seen as many as six times at different crime scenes.

The serial numbers found repetitively in various guns recovered in shootouts were: 936185 (six times), 479361, 361852 and 793618 (five times each), 047936, 179361 and 911243 (each found twice).

Official documents included in The STAR’s data analysis were spot reports, public press releases and police blotter entries.

Why undocumented guns abound

QCPD director Chief Supt. Guillermo Eleazar said the lax implementation of loose firearms regulations and illegal backyard gun manufacturing in some parts of the country are the reasons loose firearms abound.

Eleazar said the severity of the loose firearms problem surfaced only after the intensified campaign against illegal drugs, where law enforcement agencies saw the number of armed encounters shoot up.

The QCPD chief cited the seizure of at least 60 undocumented firearms during a raid at a gun shop near the vicinity of the PNP headquarters at Camp Crame last November.

Several gun parts, long firearms and handguns, including several homemade “paltik” revolvers, a submachine gun, an M1 Garand rifle and a carbine rifle were seized at the Triple A Guns and Ammo Store along Second Ave. in Barangay Bagong Lipunan.

The gun shop had an existing license to operate until February 2019, but it sold loose firearms without supporting documents, Eleazar said.

Similar gun shops, which have legitimate permits but trade in undocumented guns, contribute largely to the proliferation of loose firearms in the city, he added.

The QCPD chief said his group is now investigating if the gun shop was involved in the stamping of similar numbers onto imported backyard-made firearms.

The raid at the Triple A gunshot yielded several guns which had no serial numbers, as well as two firearms that bore the serial number 936185, which was also found in six other crime scenes of alleged shootouts.

Despite the countless gun raids, never-ending “final amnesty” for unlicensed firearms and the long “crackdown” on undocumented guns, the problem of proliferation of loose firearms is still not fully addressed, Eleazar admitted.– Paolo Romero, Cecille Suerte Felipe, Romina Cabrera



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