Punchline

Questions for shotgun defenders

By Ermin Garcia Jr.

The defenders of the shotgun-for-barangay chiefs program of the provincial government sorely miss the point.

There is no doubt that the program can stand legal scrutiny and, in fact, may, indeed, have legal basis. It’s both the motive and the alibi used as justification that is being questioned. The fact that the shotguns were issued even before the provincial board and the PNP could draft the guidelines for their use makes the Espino administration’s rationale and priorities discombobulated.

The provincial board members (and the mayors who support the program) simply need to answer the following:

1. Is there a breakdown of peace and order in the province?

2. Is the provincial police incapable of maintaining peace and order?

If the answers to the two are ‘Yes’, then the governor and the board members must say so and go further by appropriating for more firearms for all the police stations in the province, and quickly impose curfews in towns and cities.

* * *

Then there is the matter of priorities.

1. Are all the town/city police stations already amply equipped with firearms for the effective maintenance of peace and order in the province?

2. Have all the barangay chairmen been given adequate training on weapon safekeeping and handling?

Then, there is the matter of authority and responsibility.

1. Do the barangay chiefs have police powers?

2. Are the barangay chairmen empowered to delegate custody and use of the shotgun to their barangay tanods during nightly patrols when the kapitans don’t join the night patrols? (It will be recalled the shotguns were requested by the kapitans ostensibly for night patrols).

3. Are the town/city police chiefs going to be responsible for the custody of the shotguns and their use by the barangay chiefs?

If the answers to all the above questions are in the negative, the shotguns should be recalled immediately and re-issued instead to the local police stations.

I rest my case.

* * *

It will also be recalled that Guv Spines was categorical in establishing the premise for the distribution of the shotguns. “This is not for offense, but defense the intention here is good,” he said. Great!

Yet, we have not heard of any punitive action taken by the Guv against the two kapitans, reported to have already used their shotguns to terrorize their constituents. Neither have we heard a pipsqueak from the gallant defenders of the program in the provincial board to even lamely go through the motion of recommending an investigation.

By their inaction, it would appear that the proponents are now afraid to incur the ire of the kapitans. They are obviously now held hostage by what they believe the barangay chiefs can do to them in 2010.

Enough of “good intentions”, Guv! Time to walk the talk!

* * *

CELESTE’S GUN WAS USED TO KILL. BM Amadeo Espino, as president of Liga ng mga Barangay and the main proponent of the shotgun program, said he proposed the purchase and distribution because the kapitans have complained that they have no other means to defend themselves when patrolling at night, ergo, a shotgun would be useful to them.

Based on police records, .45 caliber handguns were issued to barangay chiefs in 2006, courtesy of Rep. Arthur Celeste. This was borne out by the affidavit of a former barangay chairman, one of the suspects in the shooting of an Alaminos resident.

Well, it appears Espino‚Äôs members in the First District were less than honest about their situation. In fact, I’d go further by saying that the police provincial command misled the governor and the provincial board when it did not report that handguns were already issued to the barangay chiefs in the district and that these are now considered loose firearms.

If the Guv’s brother truly meant well, he should then initiate the immediate recall of the shotguns issued to the kapitans in the First District until they can account for the handguns.

Meanwhile, Guv Spines can do the program some good if he can make PNP account for these as well and compel the surrender of these to the PNP since shotguns are already in the custody of the kapitans.

Curiously, Cong. Celeste has not been made to account for the criminal use of the handgun by a beneficiary of his most irresponsible program made possible by his pork barrel!

Technically, that was his gun used in the crime.

(Readers may reach columnist at punch.sunday@gmail.com. For past columns, click http://sundaypunch.prepys.com/archives/category/opinion/punchline/
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