MANILA, Philippines – Following the shooting incident which injured a lawmaker, the House of Representatives will be implementing stricter security checks.
House Secretary General Marilyn Barua-Yap said that firearms have “always been prohibited” inside the building of the House of Representatives.
Both North and South Wings of the building have posters reminding visitors and House staff that firearms, explosives and other deadly weapons are prohibited inside.
Copies of a March 9, 2011 memorandum barring firearms inside the House were also posted above the said reminders.
But in the aftermath of the shooting incident at the lower chamber of Congress’ building that involved former Cagayan de Oro Representative Benjamin “Benjo” Benaldo, Barua-Yap assured “we will be very strict.”
Benaldo was found bleeding from a gunshot wound inside his office last week while he was preparing to move out. Speaker Feliciano Belmonte Jr. in a recent statement said that the wound the former lawmaker sustained in the chest indicated that “he attempted to take his own life.”
“Guns should be prohibited. Only the official House security detail should be allowed to carry firearms,” said Ifugao Representative Teddy Baguilat Jr.
Both Baguilat and Cibac Representative Sherwin Tugna noted that security measures within the House have been lax when it came to the lawmakers.
“I think the security measures we had were adequate. We were perhaps just a bit too lax with the representatives because the congressmen aren’t frisked upon entry. Who knows if they are carrying firearms?” asked the Ifugao legislator.
Tugna said that what House members needed was a “change of mindset… when they enter the HOR (House of Representatives). There is a rule that guns are not allowed in Congress, with a very few limited exceptions such as the PSG (Presidential Security Group) when the President is there during SONA (State of the Nation Address).”
“Unless one of the exceptions exists, the no gun policy inside the HOR should be followed by all who enters Congress,” he said.
What was clear to Marikina Representative Miro Quimbo was that “certainly, the plenary floor should be gun-free at the very least.”
But while he said that he personally saw no use for firearms, “it will be unfair for me to expect others to be like me as many members have genuine security issues and legitimate threats on their lives.”
“I leave it to our members to exercise their own discretion on this matter,” he said.