The Philippine National Police (PNP) may soon be the only government agency which can claim to have single-handedly bankrupted a thriving legitimate local industry—the firearms and ammunition industry. This comes at a time when national government, through its various agencies, is supposedly working double-time to stimulate investments and create new job opportunities.
The local gun industry’s woes began with the implementation of the Republic Act 10591, better known as the Comprehensive Firearms & Ammunition Act of 2013. Stakeholders welcomed the passage of the new law expecting a more predictable system covering all facets of legitimate gun ownership. It was hoped that the new gun law would do away with fickle gun regulations which tended to shift and sway with the whims of an incumbent PNP chief.
Sadly, R.A. 10591 may have given the PNP too much of a leeway in setting the Implementing Rules & Regulations (IRR) for purchases, licensing and the general ownership of firearms. While the new law may have looked good on paper, the Devil was indeed in the details, it turned out!
Very apparent mismanagement in the licensing and registration system has completely neutralized whatever benefits that legitimate gun owners could have derived from the new gun law. Also, a corruption scandal connected to the “door-to-door” delivery of gun license cards has probably not helped! Half a year into the new law’s implementation, the process of applying for “Licenses to Own and Possess” as well as the registration of new and old guns are virtually at a standstill.
And as other state agencies leap into the Information & Communications Technology age, the PNP is actually regressing. It has centralized the processing of all gun license applications and renewals at Camp Crame in Quezon City, regardless of what part of the country the applicant resides! That, together with other ridiculously capricious new regulations, has made the legal purchase of any sort of firearm by civilians painfully costly and laborious if not nearly impossible.
As a result, local arms dealers have been unable to sell a single firearm in nearly six months! The Association of Firearms & Ammunitions Dealers of the Philippines (AFAD) reports that its members alone used to sell an average of three thousand guns to the private sector every month.
Speaking before lawmakers, AFAD president Jethro Dionisio lamented that gun shops have been constrained to cut store hours and lay off staff in order to remain in business. They have apparently adopted these cost-cutting measures in the hope that they can ride out this extended period of uncertainty. However, a quick survey of local gun shops will reveal that some have not opened their doors in weeks.
Local manufacturers have been hit especially hard. Shooters Arms Manufacturing, a once-thriving gun maker based in Cebu City, has reportedly laid off 255 employees as a direct result of the absence of sales. Meantime, Paranaque City-based Metro Arms Corporation (MAC) is resorting to other measures in order to stay afloat. MAC president Hector Rodriguez says they have cut the work week by one day in order to hold on to their workforce.
It may be up to Congress to rectify the unexpected side effects that arose from R.A. 10591. This, because Malacanang’s confidence in the current PNP leadership, while arguably undeserved, is not expected to change anytime soon! Our policy-makers must come to the realization that there is more at stake here than just the bottomline of big business and the convenience of shooting enthusiasts.
How many more Filipinos will find themselves jobless in the days and weeks to come?