MANILA, Philippines – Authorities on Monday started inspecting the firearms of 32 potential suspects in the death of seven-year-old girl Stephanie Nicole Ella due to celebratory gunfire during the New Year, a police official said.
After narrowing down the list from 45 to 32, Superintendent Jackie Candelario, spokesperson for the Caloocan City police, told Radyo Inquirer 990AM in an interview that the gun owners were willing to cooperate and were requested to hand in their guns for inspection at the crime laboratory.
He said that the owners of .45 caliber pistols being considered as potential suspects are living within a 50-meter radius from Ella’s home.
Civilian guns for self-defense only
The death of Ella has sparked public criticism over lax gun control in the Philippines and the shooting rampage last Friday in Cavite fueled pressure for more assertive action by authorities to deal with unlicensed firearms.
At the Senate, Senator Panfilo Lacson said permits to carry firearms outside residence (PTCFOR) should no longer be issued to civilians so that their guns could only be used for self-defense.
“Firearms are for self-defense and protection of properties from intruders, and not for offensive action by the possessor,” he said in a statement Monday.
“While civilians may be allowed to possess firearms, the firearms should be kept in a vault inside the owners’ homes when left unattended,” he added.
Lacson joined the many who have been calling for stricter gun control after a string of violent deaths brought about by firearms.
“A lot of lives can be saved and a big positive impact on the country’s peace and order will be felt by the citizenry,” he said.
Senator Loren Legarda, the Roman Catholic Church, and non-government organization Gunless Society have all issued statements calling for stricter gun control in the country.
Sotto: No to total gun ban
But Senator Vicente Sotto III believes a total gun ban in the Philippines will not prevent the recent shooting rampage in Cavite from happening again.
“I believe that a total gun ban would not prevent a repeat of the bloodbath but would only exacerbate the already grave peace and order problem in our country,” Sotto said in a statement Monday.
“If we outlaw guns, then only the outlaws will have guns, as the saying goes. The citizenry will be at the mercy of the criminal elements with high-powered guns at their disposal,” he said.
Seven people were killed Friday when Ronald Bae went on a reportedly drug-fueled shooting rampage before himself being gunned down by police in Kawit, Cavite.
Sotto said that the calls for a total gun ban was just a “knee-jerk reaction to the western-style shooting rampage” that also left nine people injured.
“The carnage in Cavite is already tragic in itself; it would be more tragic if we disarm responsible gun holders whose only aim in possessing guns is to protect themselves from criminal elements,” Sotto said.
He blamed the government’s failure to apprehend Bae for his reported drug trafficking in the locality.
“What happened in Cavite is a reminder that despite all the laws that we have passed, our anti-drug campaign is not making much headway,” Sotto said.
“According to reports, Bae was a known drug trader in the locality and his house in Kawit was openly used as distribution center for illegal drugs. The question is: Why was Bae not apprehended for illegal drug trafficking so that carnage could have been prevented?” he said.
Sotto said that the government should increase of the budget of the Philippine Drug Enforcement Agency (PDEA) so it could improve its operations instead of imposing a total gun ban.