PHILIPPINE National Police (PNP) chief, General Debold M. Sinas has assured the country that police are working fully to ensure there will be a ‘certainty of punishment’ for those who violated the ban on indiscriminate firing during the recent yuletide season.
For one, the top cop said policemen who violated the ban will be surely dismissed from the police service. These policemen, along with the others who fired their guns in the air last December were also charged in court and are facing jail terms upon conviction.
From December 16, 2020 up to last January 3, 19 people, three of them policemen were jailed and charged in court after being arrested for illegal discharge of firearm.
Sinas said he has ordered the conduct of summary hearing procedures on the three police non-commissioned officers who were hauled to jail for violating the ban on indiscriminate firing. He assured the public that the three will be fired from the service upon conviction.
One kid died while seven others were injured after being hit by stray bullets during the recent yuletide season.
Of the violators, three were policemen identified as Patrolman Gerald Cabullos of the Manila Police District Station 8; Staff Sergeant Karen Borromeo of the Malabon City Police Station; and Patrolman Pacifico Laguna Jr. of the Tubajon Municipal Police Station in Dinagat Island in Caraga region.
The others include Private First Class Ruben Amora of Army stationed in Allen, Northern Samar and Pfc. Absar Abdul of the Army’s 36th Infantry Battalion; civilians James Valenzula, Jojit Jose, Angel Elarion, Andy Binerba, Raymundo Dailoan, Giovanne Ugasan, Anjo Ballesteros, Pfc. Amora’s brother Johnrey, Julito Botron, Gerald Angeles, Arnel Kudarat and Leonisitio Olvida; barangay ‘kagawad’ Nerie Lira and Wilfredo Ama; and security guards Hercel Pagsolingan, Christian Angeles, Jeffrey Bernardo and Jeson Tacang.
Valenzuela, Ama, Pagsolingan, Tacang, Pfc. Abdul, Angeles and Pat. Laguna were all found to be under the influence of liquor when they fired their guns indiscriminately before being arrested by responding policemen.
The number however is much lower compared to the 2019 and 2018 arrests, said PNP Director for Operations, Major Gen. Alfred S. Corpus.
According to Corpus, there were 34 individuals arrested for the same offense in 2019 and 36 in 2018. From December 16, 2020 to last Sunday, the official said that 68 people were arrested for illegal possession/use/sale of firecrackers compared to the 69 apprehended in 2019 and 130 in 2018.
Corpus said that during the same period, they recorded 22 cases of illegal discharge of firearms, 20 incidents of stray bullet; 277 cases of persons being arrested for illegal possession/use/sale of firecrackers; 123 firecracker-related injuries and a single fire/burning incident caused by exploding firecrackers.
In 2019, he said that there were 33 cases of illegal discharge of firearms, 12 stray bullet incidents, 303 arrested for illegal possession/use/sale of firecrackers; 641 firecracker-related injuries and 3 fire incidents triggered by firecrackers.
In 2018, Corpus said there were 39 cases of illegal discharge of firearms; 16 cases of stray bullets; 315 persons arrested for illegal possession/use/sale of firecrackers; 421 firecracker-related injuries; and 2 fire incidents caused by firecrackers.
The official said that overall, they recorded an 81 percent decrease in firecracker-related injuries in 2020 and a 29 percent reduction in cases of illegal discharge of firearm.
Corpus attributed the great reduction in the number of firecracker-related injuries to the banning of the use of firecrackers and fireworks display by local government units thru the passage of resolutions and ordinances.
Last year, the House of Representatives approved on third and final reading the bill seeking stiffer penalties for discharge and indiscriminate firing of firearms. The bill sought to amend Republic Act 3815 or the Revised Penal Code and RA 10591 or the Comprehensive Firearms and Ammunition Regulation Act of 2013.
Under the bill, a person who shoots another person using a firearm shall be given a penalty of prision correcional in its maximum period.
The same rule also applies to those who used any “device” which was defined in the bill as “anything that may not have been designed as a firearm but can functionally adapted and used as a firearm.”
Under the proposed law, members of the PNP, Armed Forces and other law enforcement agencies who will violate the said law shall be given a penalty one degree higher than what is imposed against non-PNP and AFP members.
The bill also includes the indiscriminate firing of firearms among the offenses punishable under RA 10591.
“Any person who shall discharge or shoot any firearm or any device without lawful authority, or in a random, aimless, purposeless, or indiscriminate manner, shall suffer the penalty of prision mayor in its medium period,” the bill states.
However, if the act resulted in death, the offense is punishable by reclusion temporal. Likewise, injuries or damage to property from indiscriminate firing of firearms shall also be considered as separate offenses, the bill further noted.
Stiffer penalties—such as perpetual disqualification from holding public office and being subjected to summary dismissal proceedings—shall also be imposed if the offender is a member of PNP, AFP, and other law enforcement agencies.
“Any firearm license or permit issued in favor of the offender shall be summarily canceled, and the offender shall be perpetually disqualified from being granted any firearm license or permit,” the bill states.
At present, Article 155 of the RPC states that the punishment for any person who indiscriminately fire guns during New Year revelries is imprisonment by 30 days or a fine of 200 only.
During his stint in Congress, retired Police General-turned former ACT-CIS party-lis Representative Samuel D. Pagdilao Jr. filed House Bill 5387 which sought to reclassify indiscriminate gun firing into Illegal Discharge of Firearms, a violation of Article 254 of the Revised Penal Code which is punishable by imprisonment from six years and one day to 12 years.