A non-government organization focused on “peace building” has called on President Rodrigo Duterte to strengthen arms control in the wake of the proliferation of illegal guns that helped Islamist insurgents to wage war against the government in the southern Philippines.
“We call on the President to follow through this initiative for the next six months,” said Francisco Lara Jr., country manager of International Alert Philippines in a forum on Wednesday.
International Alert Philippines focuses on conflict monitoring, the shadow economies, conflict-sensitive economic governance, and the peace processes between the government and communist and Moro rebels.
In his election campaign, Duterte promised to eliminate guns.
Illegal gun statistics
Citing statistics it gathered, Alert Philippines said that from 2011 to the first half of 2016, there were 5,413 incidents involving the use of guns in the Autonomous Region of Muslim Mindanao (ARMM) and the Davao Regions, which resulted in 4,167 deaths and 3,736 injuries.
In 2014, Filipinos owned an estimated 3.9 million legal and illicit firearms, which translates to a ratio of 3.9 units of firearms per 100 population, the NGO said.
It said that in contrast, the Philippine National Police (PNP) and the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) have less than a million guns in their arsenal.
Alert Philippines said that were four main sources of illegal guns in the country: technical smuggling, domestic production, guns recycled from a battlefield, and expired and non-renewed gun licenses.
Evidence of smuggling?
Ed Quitoriano, a consultant on shadow economy in illegal guns and reduction of gun-related violence, cited discrepancies in the Bureau of Customs (BOC) report of guns imported in the country.
“Noong 2010, nag-import ng 3500 guns from Argentina. [Bureau of] Customs only reported 260. Similar with Czechoslovakia noon 2010, with 3500 guns delivered, Customs only reported 1500.” he said.
The organization said there was a need to strengthen inter-Customs coordination when it comes to delivering accurate, centralized data.
Quitoriano said this discrepancy reflected the individual possession of firearms.
“Noong 2010 wala pang a million yung license. Ngayong 2015, nag-increase to 1.7 million units. At sa 1.7 million units from 2010, the imported units only amount to 358,” he said.
The peace-building organization recommended:
* a specialized unit for immediate gun storage and control under the Department of Justice (DOJ), outside the mandate of the PNP and Explosive Office which will be responsible for capturing illegal guns;
* a nationwide inventory of the illegal guns already seized by the security forces and carry out destruction of these guns when brought to the central office;
* and participation by the civil society and private sector in the destruction of firearms.
Lara also called for a strong and more thorough amendment of Republic Act 10591, or Comprehensive Law on Firearms and Ammunition.
The PNP has acknowledged an individual’s right to own guns as long as he or she was at least 21 years old, has passed a background check for a possession license, among other requirements.
Quitoriano said that the Philippine gun law and process for acquiring a firearm were very liberal.
“State forces are clearly outgunned. The sheer number of illicit weapons poses a serious challenge to the government’s monopoly of the use of force to protect its citizens. This is a problem that can no longer be ignored,” said Quitoriano.