Police authorities were warned not to use the New Year’s Eve revelry as an excuse to harass and intimidate legitimate gun owners.
Progun Philippines and A2S5 Coalition, two groups advocating gun rights, said that “Oplan Katok” exposes law-abiding owners of firearms to all sorts of civil rights violations, including invasion of their domicile.
The practice of visiting firearms owners at their residences tagged Oplan Katok, was initiated by the Philippine National Police (PNP) early in the term of suspended Director General Alan Purisima. Initially, it was done only to those suspected of indiscriminately firing their guns during the holiday revelry but was later expanded to include those with expired gun licenses.
Atty. Ticky Tabuhara, secretary general of Progun Philippines, said “the potential for abuse is always great anytime armed men come to your home under the guise of authority.” He added that alleged cases of police brutality and other crimes involving policemen seems to have sky-rocketted in the period covered by Purisima’s term. Tabuhara expressed hope that the provisional PNP leadership led by deputy Director Gen. Leonardo Espina will benefit from the hard lessons derived from their predecessor.
Meantime, Tabuhara revealed that his group will file no less than four additional criminal and administrative cases, including plunder, against Purisima and other senior police officials this coming January. The complaints will stem from alleged misuse of the proceeds of firearms licensing revenues and the collection of illegal fees, among others. He declined to name other police officials to be named in subsequent complaints but said they will be “high ranking.”
Last December 23, Progun filed a petition with the Supreme Court questioning the policy of the PNP which requires already licensed gun owners to re-apply for a License to Own and Possess Firearms (LTOP). Tabuhara said there is no need to to subject legal gun owners to such redundant bureaucracy and the payment of more fees under rules of expose facto. He expressed hope that the high court will rule in favor of the 1.2 million licensed gun owners in the Philippines today.
Meanwhile, lawyer and A2S5 Coalition president Judo Bonifacio, said “the PNP does not seem to know what it’s doing following removal of Gen. Purisima.” He called on legitimate gun owners who may be subjected to Oplan Katok to refrain from allowing policemen to enter their residences. He said that they should instead politely entertain visiting policemen outside the entrances of their respective domiciles.
Bonifacio said Filipinos should make an effort to learn their constitutional rights as a defense against abusive men in uniform. He added that homeowners being subjected to dubious police searches should get the names of the officers involved and possibly take their photos using their cellphones. He explained that only lawmen bearing search warrants issued by a judge, which states specifically what they are looking for, have the legal authority to enter any private home.
Both Progun and A2S5 also appealed to all legitimate gun owners in the country to refrain from discharging their firearms this New Year’s Eve. Although both Tabujara and Bonifacio said it is highly unlikely that civilians with legal guns are to be blamed for past cases of people getting hit by stray bullets during the holiday revelry. It was sited that of the 13 recorded gun-related injuries last New Year’s Eve 2014, non involved licensed gun owners.