Congressman Sherwin “Win” Gatchalian, who represents Valenzuela City’s 1st District, supports moves to slap stricter penalties for the crime illegal discharge of firearms in the wake of the rising incidents of indiscriminate firing resulting in injuries and even death.
Gatchalian, a member of National People’s Coalition or NPC, said the provision in the Revised Penal Code, which penalizes offenders with a mere P200 fine or imprisonment of one day to one month if they are convicted by a court of law, needs to be amended.
The solon pointed out that the new firearm law known as Republic Act 10591 does not contain any provision on indiscriminate firing of firearms.
“R.A. 10591 speaks of the types and classes of firearms, who may possess them, how many firearms may each person be entitled to register, requirements for registration of the firearm, its conditions for renewal and revocation, the necessary permit to transport or carry the same outside one’s residence, but it does not contain a provision penalizing gun owners for indiscriminate firing,” explained Gatchalian.
The lawmaker expressed alarm over the rising number of stray bullet incidents. The highest number was posted during the last two weeks of 2014, wherein 62 incidents of indiscriminate firing were recorded resulting in 44 injuries and the death of an 11-year-old girl in Bangued, Abra.
House Bill No. 6819, also known as “An act providing for stiffer penalties for willful or indiscriminate discharge of firearms, amending R.A. 3815, otherwise known as the Revised Penal Code.” was filed by Speaker Feliciano Belmonte in 2013. The proposed measure calls for stricter penalties on the crime of illegal discharge of firearms since stray bullets have injured and killed several innocent bystanders during the past New Year revelries.
Under H.B. 6819, any person who shall willfully and indiscriminately discharge any firearm in any public place where there is any person or property to be endangered shall suffer the penalty of prison correctional in its maximum period unless another crime of higher penalty is committed, like homicide or murder which is punishable by reclusion perpetua or life imprisonment.
Belmonte’s H.B. 6819 has stricter measure on members of the PNP, Armed Forces, and other law enforcement agencies since indiscriminate firing committed by these uniformed personnel carry a heavier penalty of reclusion temporal in its maximum period.
The measure is currently pending with the House committee on public order and security.
Gatchalian has also filed this week a resolution calling for a congressional inquiry on the state of the ballistics database of the Philippine National Police – Crime Laboratory Service or PNP-CLS. The reliable ballistic record will greatly help in going after perpetrators of indiscriminate firing and other gun-related crimes.
By filing House Resolution No. 1791, Gatchalian wants the committee on public order and safety to conduct an inquiry, in aid of legislation, on the current state of the PNP Crime Laboratory’s ballistics database and firearms-tracking capability as this is the necessary investigative tool that will identify and arrest irresponsible trigger-happy gun owners.
“It’s high time that the PNP prioritize the ballistics database of the 1.7 million registered firearms by procuring the sufficient number of IBIS [Integrated Ballistics Identification System] machines and training technicians who will operate these machines,” Gatchalian pointed out.
Gatchalian said the PNP Crime Laboratory’s ballistics and firearms recognition division has already acquired the IBIS, which utilizes state-of-the-art 3D imaging technology. It is able to capture, store, and rapidly compare huge numbers of digital ballistic images and thus, dramatically shortens the time to find a match between two or more pieces of evidence.
The NPC lawmaker, however, deplored that the Crime Laboratory only has two IBIS machines, making it virtually impossible for the PNP to make a database of the roughly 1.7 million registered firearms in the whole country.
He further learned that the PNP Crime Laboratory’s IBIS is currently not operational since it has not been upgraded after it was acquired in 2011. PNP insiders claimed a system upgrade in the IBIS technology costs around P13 million.
“The PNP should upgrade their database technology and firearms-tracking technology. Every gun in the country should be accounted for and the unique features of each gun should be kept in the database as this is part and parcel of the campaign against criminal elements,” said Gatchalian. (Monica Cantilero)