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By Francis Allan L. Angelo

OVER 7,000 of the more than 50,000 loose firearms in Western Visayas were accounted or recovered during the national government’s general firearms amnesty which expired last October 31. The amnesty aimed to encourage gun owners to register their firearms and reduce the number of loose guns come the 2010 elections.

Records from the Firearms Security Agencies and Guards Supervision (Fesags) office showed that 7,788 firearms with expired or no license were accounted, a measly 8% of the estimated 52,759 loose guns in the region.

Of the total firearms accounted, 2,359 are unlicensed while 5,426 have expired licenses.

PRO-6 records show that 29,440 firearms have expired licenses while 23,319 unlicensed guns are possessed by individuals and criminal groups.

There have been reports that President Gloria Arroyo extended for another month the gun amnesty program to significantly reduce loose guns in the country.

But the PRO-6 has yet to receive a memorandum order relative to the extension of the amnesty.

C/Supt. Isagani Cuevas, PRO-6 director, earlier ordered PNP units in the region to recover one loose gun a week.

Cuevas advised gun owners who want to register their firearms to prepare the needed documents in anticipation of the amnesty extension.

The Geneva-based Graduate Institute of International Studies (GIIS) reported that a total of 1,110,372 loose firearms (small arms and light weapons) are circulating in the Philippines.

The GIIS also said small arms and light weapons are responsible for over half a million deaths each year, including 300,000 in armed conflicts.

Statistics from the PNP national headquarters show that there are 1,110,372 loose firearms all over the country with the biggest concentration of unlicensed firearms estimated at 315,128 in the National Capital Region (NCR), including 263,457 un-renewed licenses.

The second highest number of loose firearms placed at 114,189 is in the Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao (ARMM) where an active rebellion is being waged by the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF)

Region 4A has the third highest number of loose firearms totaling 101,758, followed by Central Luzon, 78,151; Central Mindanao, 62,718; Western Visayas, 52,759; Central Visayas, 52,732; Davao provinces, 49,178; Southwestern Mindanao, 45,974; Caraga Region, 43,960; Eastern Visayas, 43,409; Northern Mindanao, 42,231; Cagayan Valley, 32,326; Bicol Region, 28,587; Ilocos Region, 26,928; Cordillera Region, 11,628; and the lowest in Region 4B (Palawan and Mindoro), 8,779.

Director General Jesus Verzosa, PNP chief, said that from 2004 to 2008, 97.7% of gun-related crimes involved loose firearms, making the Philippines 10th in gun homicide rates worldwide.

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By Francis Allan L. Angelo

THE Police Regional Office (PRO-6) is awaiting a copy of the official memorandum order that reportedly extended the gun amnesty program.

C/Supt. Isagani Cuevas, PRO-6 director, said the PNP higher command has not issued any word on the 30-day extension of the gun amnesty program extension which was announced in the national media Friday last week.

The amnesty, which expired October 30, gave gun owners with unlicensed firearms the chance to register their guns. Owners with expired licenses were also allowed to renewed their permits sans penalties.

The amnesty aims to reduce the number of illegal firearms in the country.

Cuevas said he will advise unregistered gun owners to prepare the needed documents in anticipation of the amnesty extension.

“If the extension takes effect, these gun owners will be prepared if they have their papers in order. For the meantime, we will observe status quo until we receive the memorandum order on the extension,” Cuevas said.

PNP chief Director General Jesus Verzosa had said President Gloria Macapagal Arroyo granted the request to extend the general firearms amnesty until November 30.

“This was in consideration of the numerous requests from the public and also [military and police commanders] in areas where typhoons Ondoy and Pepeng restricted their desire to avail of the firearms amnesty,” Verzosa said in a statement.

The police chief said that as of October 28, a total of 171,337 of the 1.1 million loose firearms have been accounted for since the police started an intensified campaign against loose firearms.

The government has also put up a reward system as part of the campaign against loose firearms.

“We have a reward system right now to account for loose firearms. Our proposal is to give P50,000 for recovery of three to five firearms. If there is increased recovery for stashes of firearms, we will evaluate the reward to be given,” Verzosa said.

He added that the Office of the President has allotted P5 million for the campaign against loose firearms.

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