GenSan declared a ‘no-firearm zone’

GENERAL SANTOS CITY (MindaNews/18 August) — Alarmed by the rising cases of gun-related violence and crimes in the area during the past several months, the city government here has declared the entire city as a “no-firearm zone.”

City Mayor Darlene Antonino-Custodio said she issued Executive Order (EO) No. 23, formally declaring the city’s 36 barangays as a no-firearm zone “in the interest of peace and order.”

“This is mainly to achieve a firearm-free city until such time as the security situation permits the introduction of an appropriate and effective ordinance regulating the possession of firearms within the city,” the mayor said.

In issuing EO 23, Custodio cited as main reason the prevalence of armed violence and crimes involving firearms in the city since January 2010 that has reached an alarming level.

For this month alone, the city already recorded at least a dozen gun-related killings, among them the daring murder of Barangay Calumpang councilman Carlito Cahilsot last August 4.

At least three killings were recorded on Thursday alone last week and another four incidents ensued during the last three days.

Custodio said the city government believes that the presence of firearms in the city, except those in the hands of members of law enforcement agencies and authorized private security personnel on duty, presents grave danger to public safety at this time.

She said the local government believes that measures to counter this situation are imperative and urgent and it has the responsibility to safeguard and protect the people’s welfare from lawlessness.

Citing provisions of Republic Act 7160 or the Local Government Code of 1991, Custodio said the city mayor has the powers and duties “act as the deputized representative of the National Police Commission, formulate the peace and order plan of the city and upon its approval, implement the same, and as such exercise general and operational control and supervision over the local police forces in the city.”

She said it mandates the mayor to call upon the appropriate law enforcement agencies to suppress disorder, riot, lawless violence, rebellion or sedition, or to apprehend violators of the law when public interest so requires.

Based on the provisions of Philippine National Police (PNP) Memorandum Circular Order No. 2010-008, which rationalizes the PNP’s policies on possession, bearing and carrying of firearms, the mayor said local government units were encouraged to declare their respective territorial jurisdictions as “ gun-free zones.”

“We really have to do this now before the situation worsens or we lapse into a state of lawlessness. It’s now time to clear our streets of these unlicensed and irresponsibly-carried guns,” Custodio said.

City Councilor Dante Vicente, chair of the city council’s law and order and police matters committee, said EO 23 specifically reinforces the provisions of Presidential Decree 1866, which provides for the laws on “illegal/unlawful possession, manufacture, dealing in, acquisition or disposition, of firearms, ammunition or explosives or instruments used in the manufacture of firearms, or explosives.”

“The main purpose of this measure is to reduce, if not totally stop, these gun-related crimes, especially the killings,” he said.

Vicente said the target of such order is mainly the gun-carrying criminals and the unlicensed or loose firearms that have been proliferating in the area.

He said it also aims to discourage bodyguards or security escorts of local and visiting politicians or influential personalities from carrying their firearms in full public view.

“Basically, only firearms that are carried by our law enforcers and security personnel are allowed in the city right now. All those that don’t have permits-to-carry or PTCs will be confiscated and their owners will be arrested and slapped with appropriate charges,” he warned.

Senior Supt. Cedric Train, acting city police director, said the prohibitions under EO 23 includes all licensed guns that have no authorized permits allowing them to be carried outside residences or the PTCs.

He advised media workers who own guns to leave their firearms at home if they don’t possess the required PTCs.

Several media personalities here and the neighboring areas have earlier resorted to acquiring and carrying firearms due to death threats and the dangers posed by the massacre of more than 50 people, including 30 journalists, in Ampatuan town in Maguindanao in November last year.

“You’ll have a problem if you bring them in public and we spot you with it. So unless this order is revoked for any reason, I advise everyone to strictly follow its provisions,” Train said.

In connection with the implementation of EO 23, Train said they have placed their entire unit under high alert and increased their visibility in various strategic areas in the city.

He said they have also been conducting random checkpoints as part of their campaign against the carrying of loose firearms. (Allen V. Estabillo/MindaNews)