No penalty for carrying empty bullet, says Recto

By: - Reporter / @MAgerINQ
/ 09:24 AM November 04, 2015

There is no penalty for carrying an amulet made out of an empty ammunition shell, Senate President Pro-Tempore Ralph Recto said on Wednesday, adding that nothing in the firearms law prohibits such Filipino cultural practice.

“Whether as an anting-anting (amulet) or a fashion accessory, an empty bullet casing crafted as such is a perfectly legal item,” Recto said in a statement, still reacting to the reported rising incidents of “tanim-bala” in the country’s airports.


READ: Curiouser: 4 more caught; 3 say bullets are ‘charms’ | Traveler tells how ‘bala’ works

He said the Implementing Rules and Regulations (IRR) of RA 10591, or the Comprehensive Firearms and Ammunition Regulation Act of 2013 defines “ammunition” as a “complete unfired unit” consisting of a “bullet, gunpowder, cartridge case and primer.”


“If only the cartridge remains and this has been repurposed into an amulet or a fashion bling, then it is no longer a bullet so it is not illegal to wear it. You can only be charged by your friends of being baduy (out of fashion), but you can’t be charged in court,” the senator explained.

“If, for example, two of four components are absent. Kung wala ng gunpower at primer, kahit buo pa tingnan sa labas, lalo na kung binutasan pa kasi ginawang key chain, (If the gunpowder is not present, despite appearing whole, especially if it is punctured to be turned into a key chain,) the ammunition, obviously, has been rendered useless,” he added.

READ: Palace: Gov’t resolved to fix ‘tanim-bala’ incidents | Duterte urges Aquino to ‘take drastic step’ in stopping ‘tanim-bala’

Recto said the law only punishes the illegal possession of complete ammunition or a live bullet and this was reiterated, he said, in the IRR in which the “four components” of complete ammunition are further defined.

The IRR, Recto said, states that ammunition “must have a primer,” also called an “igniter,” which refers to a device used for the purpose of setting fire to ignite the gunpowder.

It must also have gunpowder, which “refers to any explosive powder used to propel projectiles intended for firearms.”

Recto said the third component is the cartridge case, which the IRR defines as “a container, usually metal and cylindrical in shape, to be loaded with a primer, powder charge and bullet.”


Completing the ammunition, he said, is the bullet, “or the projectile propelled through the barrel of a firearm by means of the expansive force of gases coming from burning gunpowder.”

READ: Escudero: Timing, frequency of ‘tanim-bala’ ‘questionable’ | Cayetano files complaint vs Abaya, airport execs over ‘tanim-bala’

While it could be the prerogative of some airlines and aviation authorities to ban the carrying on board of amulets made out of empty cartridges, Recto said, “the only thing they should do is confiscate it and throw it to the garbage bin.”

“Even the documentation that such has been taken from your possession is not needed, unless as a receipt for the purpose of claiming it later,” he explained.

“The only hassle for air travelers who wear it or keep it in the bag is that it will be detected by an X-ray machine and will be subjected to inspection.”

To prevent such delays, especially at a time when airport queues are getting quite long, Recto said the baggage inspectors should just throw the empty bullets in the trash bin like what they do with bottled water and other prohibited liquids.

“Ang delikado lang talaga ay kung mapalitan ng tunay na bala,” said the senator.

(The only true risk is if [the empty bullet] is replaced with a real bullet.)

“The general rule is that a decommissioned bullet that is used as an anting-anting (amulet) is a perfectly legal accessory,” he said. “Kung halata naman talagang bala na wala nang silbi at di na pwedeng iputok, dapat hayaan na sa bagahe. Siguraduhin lang na sa bansang pupuntahan mo, hindi iligal ang ganyang bagay.”

(If it is apparent that the bullet is empty and useless and can no longer be fired, then it should be left in the baggage. Just make sure that in the country you are headed, such items are not prohibited.)

Recto said the legality of amulets fashioned out of bullets must be explained to the public because of the widespread practice of wearing it or displaying it as ornaments.

“Maraming lugar sa Pilipinas, merong nagsusuot nito. Kasi merong paniniwala na pangontra ito sa mga masasamang ispirito. Kaya kailangan din malaman ng mga nagsusuot nito ang kanilang karapatan na hindi sila dapat hulihin,” he further said.

(In many places in the Philippines, people wear this [amulet]. This is because of the belief that it wards off against evil spirits. This is why those who wear [such amulets] must also know their rights and that they should not be arrested.) CDG

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TAGS: airport, Ammunition, amulet, anting-anting, Bullet, Comprehensive Firearms and Ammunition Regulation Act of 2013, Culture, empty bullet, Firearms, flight, law, luggage, prohibition, Ralph Recto, Shell
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