HIS failed suicide may be the least of his worries.
Possible legal actions await outgoing Cagayan de Oro Rep. Benjamin ‘Benjo’ Benaldo who shot himself on Thursday night inside his office at the Batasan Pambansa Complex in Quezon City.
Philippine National Police Public Information Office (PIO) head, Senior Supt. Reuben Theodore Sindac said that a check at the national headquarters revealed that the lawmaker’s permit to carry a gun had already expired last year
“Based on our records, his Permit to Carry Firearm Outside of Residence (PCTFOR) has already expired last March 22, 2012,” Sindac told reporters in a press briefing in Camp Crame.
Records from the PNP Firearms and Explosive Division (FED), however, showed that the lawmaker owns a Sig Sauer 9mm pistol with a license that is not due to expire until 2015.
But, the police official said that they still need to wait for the Quezon City Police District (QCPD) to complete its investigation before taking any legal action against the lawmaker.
Benaldo was reportedly clearing his office when he tried to take his life.
Speaker Feliciano Belmonte said Benaldo did not take his defeat in the May polls lightly.
Belmonte made the disclosure in an interview after he and House Majority Leader Romero Quimbo of Marikina City visited Benaldo at the New Era hospital in Quezon City.
“His wife told us that after his defeat in the last elections, he [Benaldo] is somewhat unhappy,” Belmonte told reporters, referring to Benaldo’s wife, Brazilian model Daiana Menezes.
Benaldo, a member of the Nacionalista Party, lost in the May elections against the ruling Liberal Party’s Rolando Uy. Benaldo filed a protest against Uy’s victory before the House of Representatives Electoral Tribunal last June 7.
Belmonte said it was the employees of the House of Representatives who were stationed near Benaldo’s office in the South Wing of the House complex who heard an apparent gunshot around 7p.m. on Thursday. This incident prompted the House employees to check on Benaldo, whom they found sitting on a chair and drenched in blood because of a chest wound just below his heart.
Belmonte said that a 9-millimeter gun was seen on Benaldo’s table. Per House rules, guns are banned inside the buildings of Batasang Pambansa.
“We don’t know yet if he owns the gun. It could be accidental or not. I cannot venture into that. All I know is that he was alone in his room [when a gunshot was heard]. I wasn’t probing. We did not delve into asking very serious questions. We just asked him if he is okay. We wanted him to be okay,” Belmonte responded when asked if Benaldo really tried to commit suicide.
Benaldo was thrown to the national spotlight earlier this month because his celebrity wife went on a posting spree on social networking sites about fighting against violence against women. The successive posts fueled perception that Benaldo was a wife beater.
The couple, who got married in Las Vegas in December 2012, admitted that they had problems in an interview in showbiz talk show The Buzz but denied that Benaldo was physically or emotionally hurting his wife.
Quimbo would not say that it was a suicide attempt but admitted that the signs were there.
“He’s going through a lot of things. Kung meron mang gumawa [bumaril]sa kaniya, dapat nasabi na niya sa amin. (If somebody wanted to hurt him, he would have told us about it),” Quimbo said in a separate interview.
By the end of the night, Belmonte declared that Benaldo was already stable but clarified that the patient would still have to be transferred to Saint Luke’s Medical Center for further tests.
“We were able to chat with him. He is now very stable, in high spirits, conversing with us. I asked him, are you really okay, and he gave a thumbs up. Fortunately, the trajectory of the bullet is downward, so his vital organs were spared, except probably his lungs,” Belmonte said.
“When we [himself and Quimbo]arrived, the wife is yet to be allowed inside, so she cried. She was eventually allowed to get in and they started chatting, hugging each other,” Belmonte added.
Meanwhile, security guards at the House of Representatives are having a hard time enforcing the firearms ban in the Batasang Pambansa buildings because they literally cannot touch the House members, it was learned on Friday.
A source who works as a security guard for the House of Representatives, who refused to be named because he is not authorized to speak on the matter, made the disclosure less than 24 hours after Benaldo was found drenched in blood in his office in the Batasan in an apparent suicide attempt since a 9mm handgun was seen on his table and he was alone in his office at the time of the incident.
“Kung nakasukbit po sa kanila yung baril, mahirap po makita kasi hindi naman namin sila puede i-frisk. Bawal po. Kaya pumapasok lang po sila (It is difficult know if they are carrying firearm because we can’t frisk them. It is not allowed, so they can just enter the building, along with their bags),” the source told The Manila Times.
The security guards of the complex are only allowed to frisk the bodyguards but even then there are bodyguards who refuse to subject themselves to inspection.
Speaker Belmonte conceded that the firearms ban is not strictly enforced.
“There is a policy against but it is hard to implement in so far as members are concerned. Nevertheless, I have asked Quezon City Police District Director (QCPD) Senior Superintendent Richard Albano to check all angles, including [the]carrying of firearms inside [Batasan],” Belmonte said in a text message.
But for House Assistant Majority Leader Sherwin Tugna, it is about time that the firearms ban be strictly enforced.
“The difficulty in enforcing gun ban in HOR is our culture that security guards allow those in power not to follow the rules. The House should be strict. For the elected officials who have death threats, they can take comfort and be secure that even if their bodyguards have no guns inside the House premises, no other guns can enter the premises,” Tugna argued.
“While they are inside, they [lawmakers]can be protected by their bodyguards through other means, not by guns,” Tugna added.