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Opinion

Scratch head & wonder why?

CTALK - Cito Beltran - The Philippine Star

President Duterte has expressed his idea or desire to arm civilians so they can help fight criminality. Seriously? Is the President misinformed on the matter the same way that one of his generals at the PSG was misinformed about the alleged second jab of the president against Covid-19? Or is it an indication that the minions in and around Malacañang are worried about the potential for public sentiment to turn against the Duterte administration and their allies and are therefore busy launching balloons to distract them?

If we were to patronize or humor the President and go along with his line of thought, the first question that needs to be addressed is: “How bad is the state of criminality in the Philippines that no less than the President has cited it as basis for arming civilians? Are the officials of various law enforcement agencies willing to bow down to this embarrassing pronouncement and accept “failure”? How is it possible that criminality can be so bad in the time of Covid-19 and the numerous curfews implemented practically nationwide?

Yes, there have been a lot of on-line crimes, numerous homicides and even murder committed by depressed or despondent heads of families, cops killing unarmed defenseless poor women or regional policemen killing army intelligence personnel, cops ambushing cops in drug busts, cops liquidating a mayor, amuck cop killing associates at work, but if you were to look into statistics, the only rise in criminality is mostly about people not wearing facemasks, face shields, or violating quarantine protocols. I don’t think we’ve reached a point where we see civilians shooting at cops and surely not at other civilians in a pool party, swimming in rivers or doing public karaoke! If the President believes there is a need to arm civilian groups, the pre-requisite is to show the state of criminality and how arming civilian groups would actually help.

Considering we are already on campaign mode and that some local candidates have been whacked by criminals and cops alike, we also need to know which groups the President wants to arm and on what basis do these civilian groups qualify to be the force expanders of the PNP. The last thing we want in the country is the return of “legitimate” armed militias or security personnel loyal to some group or person as it was in Maguindanao.

Speaking of arms and criminality, someone should remind President Rodrigo Duterte how the government and the PNP’s refusal to allow gun owners to renew their firearm licenses and registration automatically, made forgetful but law abiding citizens into criminals. If you failed to register or renew, you were automatically prevented from renewing and your firearm classified as Loose Firearm. The leadership of the PNP in the past has done everything to complicate profiling, medical and mental exams for gun owners to the point that many simply stopped trying. While states in the US pushed for simplification, the PNP opted for more hurdles that became time-consuming due to requirements for personal appearance as well as expensive in terms of firing range fees, medical and psychiatric tests, etc. Many owners simply want a firearm as a deterrent against home invasion and have no interest in brandishing a weapon or going to the firing range every weekend.

At the start of the Duterte administration, I recall that various suggestions were made for a “gun amnesty” to be declared by the President so that owners could once again renew their gun licenses. However, all such suggestions were completely ignored, possibly even blocked by past officials in the PNP. The irony in the matter is that many of the people in power are members of gun clubs, go to shooting ranges almost every weekend. I remember that even Senator Bato De la Rosa would often be a guest or observer and shooter at a high class firing range inside the LPL Compound here in Lipa City where I live. While the rich active shooters and gun club members seem to have no problem travelling with high powered firearms, while many businessmen have some way of justifying and acquiring PTCs, the civilians who have guns to deter criminals from invading their homes can’t renew expired gun licenses! That has always been the case regardless of who the President is!

Whether or not President Duterte is pulling off another “bad joke” or whether this announcement is merely intended to distract people from being emotionally swept with the death of PNoy, we will never know unless the President follows through. But this matter provides an opportunity to share to our readers and the President that there have been many efforts to convince the PNP to follow or adopt the LTO system of annual renewal for licenses and registration. The system is simple and straightforward. If you forget to register or renew your license, you simply pay a late registration fee on top of the annual fee.

In the case of gun owners those who have already passed the first test or previous tests and have a good record with the PNP, and do not require PTCs or Permit To Carry outside residence, should be allowed to simply renew. The idea is to make renewal simple, easy as well as profitable for the PNP and the national government. By doing this, the PNP also has an active file or record of legitimate gun owners and their firearms. If Filipino gun owners want to be law-abiding citizens, why prevent them? President Duterte need not arm civilian groups, many already have arms, all they need are their licenses to be renewed.

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E-mail: utalk2ctalk@gmail.com

PRESIDENT DUTERTE
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