CRACK police teams have been deployed to arrest individuals including members of the uniformed service who will fire their guns indiscriminately to celebrate Christmas and New Year, Philippine National Police chief Director General Oscar D. Albayalde said yesterday.
With the PNP veering away from the yearly tradition to seal the muzzles of police firearms, the country’s top cop also called on the public to use their cellphone cameras in recording the presence of persons who will fire their guns during the Christmas and New Year revelries.
He also said that as part of the government’s effort to prevent cases of deadly stray bullet incidents during Christmas and New Year celebrations, police and soldiers have been ordered to conduct joint interdiction patrols to deter illegal discharge of firearms.
“We’re calling on the citizenry to use their mobile phone cameras in recording any person who will fire their weapons indiscriminately during the Yuletide since the recording will serve as hard evidence against the suspect,” said PNP spokesman Chief Superintendent Benigno B. Durana.
Durana also said that information on indiscriminate firing can be immediately relayed to the nearest police station or by calling the government hotline 911, the DILG Patrol 117 or thru 0917-8475757. He assured the public that all complaints will be immediately addressed by concerned police units as the PNP has a strict feedback mechanism that goes after policemen who fail to do their job.
Gen. Albayalde made it clear there will be a much tougher campaign against indiscriminate firing. For his part, National Capital Region Police Office chief, Director Guillermo Lorenzo T. Eleazar said that in line with the PNP’s ‘Ligtas Paskuhan 2018’ program, “the Team NCRPO is celebrating the Yuletide by intensifying police visibility to ensure there will be peace, order, safety and joy in our midst, every moment of the day.”
Eleazar said they are fielding 7,823 NCRPO personnel who, with the support of nearly 10,000 force multipliers will oversee the peace and order situation in Metro Manila on a 24-hour period.
The PNP chief has ordered a nationwide Yuletide alert to ensure the safety and security of Filipinos and foreign visitors during the Christmas and New Year season.
The security measures include the conduct of regular law enforcement activities, stepped-up police presence and focused law enforcement operations all aimed at preventing and solving crimes.
The PNP Directorate for Operations said that all police regional offices and national support units have been ordered to intensify intelligence-driven and managed patrols in areas where they are most needed.
Police have also been ordered to establish Police Assistance Desks or PADs in places of heavy convergence including shopping malls, bus terminals, airports and seaports and at the same time deploy Road Safety Marshals in major thoroughfares in the country.
On orders of Gen. Albayalde, PNP mobile forces will also patrol control points and areas in the country and assist in the conduct of beat, foot and mobile patrols.
The PNP ‘Ligtas Paskuhan 2018’ likewise called for an intensified patrol operations during the New Year revelries.
The PNP leadership likewise also reminded anew its officers and men of the ‘one-strike policy’ when it comes to incident of death resulting from indiscriminate firing during the period.
“The one-strike policy regarding incident of death or injury resulting from indiscriminate firing on Christmas and New Year’s Day will be implemented to all commanders and all Chiefs of Police. Henceforth, they will be relieved if the case is not solved within 24-hours,” the memorandum said.
Police are also under orders to to arrest the illegal manufacture, sale and use of prohibited firecrackers and pyrotechnics nationwide as part of the government’s effort to save lives and limbs.
“The collateral damage of firecrackers is not discounted to include the risk brought about by the illegal discharge of firearms,” said Gen. Albayalde.
The PNP is also watching threats posed by remnants of the Maute and Abu Sayyaf Group as well as the New People’s Army in the aftermath of President Duterte’s decision to scrap talks with the Communist Party of the Philippines.
As a standard procedure, persons accosted for indiscriminate firing will have to undergo a paraffin test and their firearms if recovered, automatically subjected to a ballistics examination to determine if they could have also been used in the commission of other crimes in the past.
All offenders will face charges for alarm and scandal and violation of Republic Act 10591 or the Comprehensive Firearms and Ammunition Regulations Act of 2013, he said.
Last year, the PNP ordered all police regional directors to be on guard against cases of indiscriminate firing as Camp Crame directed that police chiefs will be administratively relieved from their post if they will fail to solve within 24-hours any case of indiscriminate firing in their area which will result to death or injuries to innocent civilians.
The PNP has veered away from the traditional practice of taping the muzzles of police firearms before Christmas Day since Gen. Albayalde believes it does not speak well of a disciplined police force.
Officials said that the move is to show the public that the PNP is a disciplined and trusted organization and in that case, it does not need muzzle taping. The move is also aimed at raising the bar of discipline and responsibility among the PNP personnel and the trust and confidence of the people, officials explained.
The PNP chief’s directive means that police won’t tape the barrels of their guns and affix their signatures on it in front of the press before Christmas. Traditionally, police seal their guns before December 25 and those with broken seals are made to explain why they should not be investigated for indiscriminate firing.
The decade-long practice usually last up to January 6 with police commanders examining the taped service firearms of their men to see if there are signs that they have been fired.
However, officials said that undisciplined policemen won’t use their government-issued guns to engage in indiscriminate firing and instead fire unregistered guns. Officials also said that records will show that trigger-happy civilians are mostly the suspects in previous indiscriminate firing incidents recorded by the police.
The probability of one individual policeman being caught if he fires his service gun is also big in the event slugs and casings are recovered since the ballistic records of all PNP-issued firearms are stored in a database of the PNP Crime Laboratory.
Cases of indiscriminate firing usually mar New Year festivities in the country each year leaving innocent people dead or badly injured. Some of the victims of stray bullets in Metro Manila and the rest of the country were unfortunate children who were hit by falling slugs while either playing in the streets or inside the confines of their homes. Many of these cases remain unsolved to date with no arrests made.
“Those who will be caught firing their guns in the air for sure will find themselves spending Christmas or New Year behind bars. There will be no ifs and buts here. Those who will be found to have fired their guns indiscriminately will be immediately arrested, jailed and charged in court,” Gen. Albayalde said.
PNP spokesman, Chief Superintendent Benigno B. Durana Jr. said that intensified intelligence efforts in coordination with the Armed Forces and other law enforcement agencies and local government units are being conducted by their men to identify probable violators.