MANILA, Philippines — The Philippine National Police (PNP) said on Tuesday it might invite licensed gun owners within the vicinity of areas where victims were hit by stray bullets during the New Year’s eve merrymaking.
A four-year-old boy in Mandaluyong City was killed while more than 20 others were accidentally injured from indiscriminate firing as the nation welcomed 2013 with the usual raucous revelries.
Chief Supt. Raul Petrasanta, chief of the PNP’s Firearms and Explosives Office (FEO), said his office was expecting reports and requests for assistance from investigators of the Scene of the Crime Operations (SOCO) and the local police stations regarding the victims of stray bullets.
He said the PNP-FEO’s Integrated Ballistics Information System (IBIS) could help police investigators in determining the source of the bullets that hit the victims.
The IBIS can also ascertain if the firearm used was registered with the PNP or not.
“But our actions would still be based on what evidence the Soco and our crime laboratory would be able to provide to us,” Petrasanta told the Philippine Daily Inquirer over the phone.
“If the firearm is registered, we can determine the owner of that gun. Then we can file a case against the owner and revoke all the gun licenses of that owner even if his other guns were not involved in indiscriminate firing,” he added.
He admitted though that it would be difficult for the police to conduct its investigation if the guns involved were loose firearms, or guns which were never registered with the PNP-FEO.
“If a loose firearm is used in the case of indiscriminate firing, then we don’t have any database or history of that gun. In that case, we can only provide the caliber or type of gun used,” he said.
But Petrasanta said police investigators could trace the possible origin of the bullet that hit the victims since bullets from handguns fired in the air could only reach a certain distance within its trajectory.
For example, he said a bullet fired from a .45-caliber pistol could reach a distance of about 100 meters to 300 meters in diameter depending on its trajectory.
“That’s why it’s important for the SOCO or crime laboratory investigator to gather the slug and other evidence and determine the trajectory of the bullet,” he said.
Petrasanta said it was also important for the police to look for eyewitnesses’ accounts to help them determine who indiscriminately fired the gun.
“If a witness can name a person who probably used a gun during the New Year’s eve celebration, then we can check if that person has a licensed gun. We can then check if the bullet that hit the victim came from that person’s firearm,” he added.
“The police investigator can also invite the gun owners to shed light on the incident.”
Chief Supt. Generoso Cerbo Jr., PNP spokesperson, also sought the assistance of the public, stressing that testimonies from witnesses could greatly help the police investigation into the case of the victims of stray bullets.
Meanwhile, the PNP said that despite the cases of firecracker-related injuries and indiscriminate firing, the holiday festivities throughout the country had been “generally peaceful” since no major crime was reported during the period.
“(The PNP) made this assessment as it… noted fewer casualties and injuries in the revelries during the entire holiday (season),” Cerbo said in a statement.
He cited a report from the Department of Health that firecracker-related injuries decreased by 17 percent when compared to the 2011 figure.
“The PNP attributed this generally peaceful situation to the intensified nationwide campaign against prohibited firecrackers and indiscriminate firing of guns that was implemented vigorously by police units on instructions of President Benigno S. Aquino III,” Cerbo said.