POSTSCRIPT / June 23, 2015 / Tuesday


Opinion Columnist

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Give peace a chance. Try disarmament!

GIVE peace a chance, says the slogan-driven Aquino administration in pushing passage of the Bangsamoro Basic Law, insinuating that anybody who criticizes or opposes the BBL must be instigating warfare in Mindanao.

That pro-peace slogan is not only hollow, but also divisive. It comes at a time when President Noynoy Aquino should be calling for unity beyond borders and biases.

Malacañang should heed its own “give peace a chance” slogan by working assiduously for a phased lawful disarmament in the area of conflict.

By disarmament we do not mean the decommissioning of 35 of the thousands of weapons in the hands of the 7,000-strong Moro Islamic Liberation Front and the doling out by Malacañang of retirement benefits to old rebels.

By disarmament we mean the consistent enforcement of the laws governing the possession and use of firearms by non-military and non-police personnel.

It means the confiscation, not decommissioning, of all loose firearms. Loose firearms are those not covered by licenses properly issued by the Firearms and Explosives Office of the Philippine National Police under current implementing rules and regulations.

When a weapon is decommissioned it should be rendered beyond use. Decommissioning does not mean just putting the gun aside to be mustered out again when needed, as when the government is perceived to have reneged on its promises.

In the Sultan Kudarat decommissioning last week, the weapons were not surrendered to the government, but were just deposited with a foreign third party in a weird arrangement where Filipinos yielded to aliens the option of what to do under certain circumstances.

• Disarmament a giant step to peace

DISARMAMENT is clearly a giant step toward peace. It will help reduce the incidence of  gun-related violence, and dampen lawless activities of rebellious elements whose imagined source of power is their gun.

With fewer weapons in the hands of individuals and groups of whatever political or religious color, it would be easier for the government to widen the space for peaceful endeavors, and work out programs for a better life for all.

Question: How do we disarm outlaws in Mindanao who have had their weapons grafted into their manhood?

Counter-question: But how come the government is able to regulate with reasonable success the possession and use of firearms in the rest of the country?

Follow-up question: Is the government unable and unwilling to do it in Muslim areas, or even just attempt to do it, because it has no balls?

• Afraid to apply gun rules in Moroland

WHILE the authorities tremble when asked to seize firearms illegally held by lawless elements in Mindanao, they crack down on law-abiding Filipinos in the rest of the country, bedeviling them with complicated and costly gun rules and procedures.

Owners now have to secure a separate gun registration certificate, a license to possess or own, and a permit to carry a firearm outside residence!

The rules and regulations for owning a gun for self-protection have been made so unreasonable that fewer people are now buying guns and many gun-owners have decided to hunker down and keep their weapons without renewing their licenses.

Partly in response to that bahala na stance, owners with expired licenses had been given until the end of the year to update their gun papers.

But why cannot the government impose the same stringent rules and restrictions when dealing with gunmen of the MILF and the assorted armed groups in Muslim Mindanao? Bakit natataot sa kanila while being overly strict with the docile citizens in the rest of the Republic?

Btw, the new streamlined requirements with supplemental options based on RA 1059 were published last June 19 on Page B-11 of the Philippine Star.

The same and related information can also be accessed in the Facebook account of the Association of Firearms and Ammunition Dealers of the Philippines, according to Joy Gutierrez, AFAD president.

The cheapest handgun one can buy locally costs P13,500 while a more expensive one can cost more than P500,000 depending on accessories attached.

The expenses associated with applying and following up a gun’s documentation are so many that we have not been able to add them up. But if you have the time to do it yourself, it is faster and less expensive to deal directly with the PNP Firearms and Explosives Office.

• Binay tops Aquino in trust ratings

VICE President Jojo Binay is still holding on in Pulse Asia’s “Ulat ng Bayan” for May 30 to June 5 despite the drubbing he got in an earlier survey of the Social Weather Stations. He even beat President Noynoy Aquino in their trust ratings!

Only President Aquino and Binay had majority APPROVAL ratings (54 percent and 58 percent, respectively) in the Ulat, but only the Vice President enjoyed the TRUST of most Filipinos (57 percent) in June.

Pulse Asia reported: Appreciation is the plurality sentiment as regards the work done by Senate President Franklin Drilon (49 percent) while small majorities are unable to say if they approve or disapprove of the performance of Chief Justice Maria Lourdes A. Sereno (52 percent) and Speaker Sonny Belmonte (53 percent).

President Aquino posted majority approval ratings in virtually all geographic areas and socio-economic classes (55 – 62 percent and 54 – 56 percent, respectively), with Metro Manila and Class ABC being the exceptions (34 percent and 43 percent, respectively).

In the case of Binay, approval is the majority sentiment toward his performance in every geographic area and Classes D and E (51 – 62 percent and 56 – 67 percent, respectively). His only non-majority approval rating is in Class ABC (43 percent).

(First published in the Philippine STAR of June 23, 2015)

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