Gone are the days, it seems, when priests walked around confident that a crucifix in hand and a rosary in their pockets sufficed to protect them from harm and “evil”. And then there is the now obsolete saying that “the pen is mightier than the sword”. Apparently “journalists” have now lost confidence in that notion, preferring instead to rely on a shiny heavy piece instead of wielding the pen to pack their might. And if you are an accountant? Well, it’s all good. Perhaps the nerdy stigma attached to accountants can be erased now that our bean counters can legally play cowboys and indians with their new toys while debiting and crediting our books.
So goes the rationale behind a new law reportedly signed by Philippine President and gun enthusiast Benigno Simeon “BS” Aquino III making the carrying of firearms legal for priests, journalists, accountants, and other people engaged in “dangerous” professions…
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Under the Philippines’ Republic Act 10591, people working in these sectors — along with nurses, engineers, bank tellers, and lawyers — are considered “in imminent danger due to their profession” and will be allowed to carry small guns when outside their homes.
To qualify for a special firearms permit, people in these professions have to pass drug and psychiatric tests, and show they don’t have any criminal convictions or pending cases for crimes with punishments of more than two years in prison.
This relaxes the requirements of the previous gun law, the Republic Act 8294, under which they had to prove they were under “actual threat” of danger to carry a firearm.
And yes, but of course…
The regulations could be good news for reporters in the Philippines, who live in one of the world’s deadliest countries for the media, according to the Committee to Protect Journalists.
Some 74 journalists, mostly covering politics, have been murdered in the Philippines since 1992, the press freedom group says. In more than 70% of cases, the killers have gone unpunished.
According to the World Health Rankings website, violence ranks Number 7 in a list of the Philippines’ top causes of death making it one of Filipinos’ top lifestyle-related killers. Violence, after all, is a way of life in the Philippines. Filipinos kill one another for the smallest things — ask any foreigner living in the Philippines and it is likely that their greatest fear will be something involving getting shot in the back over offending the fragile ego of the corner tambay.
Not surprising, considering President BS Aquino is an avid gun enthusiast. BS Aquino once insisted on packing a piece despite his being under the constant protection of an elite squad of security men. If I were one of BS Aquino’s security guys, I’d feel really insulted. And insulting a Filipino (much more an armed one) really isn’t such a smart thing to do. You could end up with a bad case of lead poisoning in your back.
Indeed, as the Washington Post observes in the aftermath of that brazen SM Megamall armed robbery, the Philippines is more gun than fun…
The proliferation of firearms — police estimate there are up to 1 million unregistered weapons — have fueled violence and insurgencies in the country for years despite calls from lawmakers and pressure groups for tighter gun control. A dysfunctional justice system with crowded jails and underpaid prosecutors and judges has produced a massive backlog where a criminal trial can stretch over six years or more.
The biggest irony surrounding this violent country is its utter lack of a strong martial tradition. Filipinos are not known for a proud tradition of victory in the battlefield. This is evident in the sad way the Philippines continues to depend on the United States, its former colonial master, to defend it from an increasingly aggressive China. Indeed, Filipinos maintain a pipsqueak military force — barely enough to fight even the most unprofessional of armed militias and bandits that roam its countryside with impunity. For a country that prides itself in having the pound-for-pound greatest boxer in the world as one of its own, it is a mouse where it matters. With millions of able-bodied Filipino men just wiling away their time on street corners drinking beer, the Philippines is a society of people begging for a clear purpose in their lives.
The new gun law signed by the country’s gunslinger-wannabe president is evidence that the Philippine government continues to utterly fail at one of its most basic mandates — to build a safe and just society that Filipinos could truly be proud of.
benign0 is the Webmaster of GetRealPhilippines.com.