MANILA, Philippines— Senate Majority Leader Vicente “Tito” Sotto III, who described himself as a “favorite whipping boy” of some people, wants members of the Senate to be included in the list of those who should be allowed to possess and carry licensed firearms.
Sotto made the proposal during a Senate hearing on Thursday on Senate Bill 2993, which seeks a comprehensive law on firearms, light weapons and ammunitions, filed by Senator Panfilo Lacson.
Under the bill, the following professionals whose lives are considered in imminent danger due to the nature of their profession, occupation or business are allowed to carry firearms outside their residences:
“To the Senate bill proposed by Lacson, we might as well include the senators because in my case I’m not only the favorite whipping boy of some social media practitioners but also the favorite whipping boy of the illegal drugs organizations since time immemorial but I don’t have a single bodyguard,” Sotto said.
“I’d rather believe in my self-defense and that’s the reason that I carry a firearm…Hindi ho ako nagba-body guard e. I don’t want the Filipino people paying for my bodyguard…,” he added.
It was lawyer Ferdinand Parayno, secretary general of the National Prosecutor League of the Philippines, who first suggested during the same hearing, that senators, along with prosecutors, judges and qualified officials and employees should also be included in the proposed legislation.“
“I want to be realistic your honor. It is the fact that the number of policemen nationwide is not enough to protect our citizenry nationwide. Marami pong mga priority ang mga [pulis]. Kung kami po lahat mga prosecutors, we are more than 2000 nationwide, magre-request ng protection sa PNP (The police have their priorities. If all prosecutors would request protection from the Philippine National Police) how would they be able to perform their other duties?” Parayno asked.
“I think it will be more prudent for the government to allow qualified government officials, judges prosecutors, senators to be allowed to own, possess and to carry their firearms so they could protect themselves in the event of any attack. That is a realistic approach to the problem,” he said .
Parayno’s group and several other groups, including the Gunless Society of the Philippines present in the hearing , favored stiffer gun control law but not a total gun ban.
“The Prosecutors League of the Philippines is for stricter gun control. By that, we mean that there should be strict monitoring of gun ownership and possession. We are not for total gun ban,” Parayno said.
“The Gunless Society and Kapatiran Party of which I’m a secretary general is not for a total gun ban but simply stricter gun control,’ said Norman Cabrera, secretary general of the Gunlesss Society.
“The possession in public places of firearms and deadly weapons should be authorized only for those directly and primarily engaged in police, military or security services and even then, only to enforce the law under a strict and clearly defined guidelines. The act does not in any way impair the privilege of responsible and qualified citizens to keep licensed firearms at home or at sports clubs,” Cabrera added.
Arsenio “Boy” Evangelista, whose son was killed by the notorious Dominguez carjacking group, also opposed a total gun ban.
“Our stand here is no to total gun ban simply because our lives are in danger,” said Evangelista, who represents the Volunteers Against Crime and Corruption (VACC) during the hearing.
“We strongly believe that 95 percent involving shooting incidents, crimes against person (happen) outside of our residents. Why deny us of bringing guns outside our residences? We are a dead-man walking here. Soft target po kami (We become soft targets),” he said.
Citing data of the PNP’s firearms and explosives division, Ernesto Tabujara of the Peaceful Responsible Owners of Guns said that only less than one percent of all crimes committed in the country were committed by licensed firearms while 99.9 percent were allegedly committed by criminal elements.
Jethro Tan Dionisio, president of the Association of Firearms and Ammunition Dealers of the Philippines, said they are also for stiffer penalties, and not for a total gun ban.
“We are in favor of passing the law for stiffer penalties. The problem lies in the proliferation of the illegal guns and the responsible gun owners should not be the ones who are penalized for this,” Dionisio said.