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‘Focus on loose guns, not ‘planted’ bullets’

Senate President Pro Tempore Ralph G. Recto pressed the national government yesterday to concentrate in recovering an estimated 1.9 million loose guns, not on bullets “planted’’ at bags of airline passengers, particularly overseas Filipino workers (OFW).

The country’s millions of OFWs prop up the country’s economy with their annual billions of dollars of annual remittances.

“These are the lethal weapons – especially those in the hands of criminals – the authorities should look for, not rusting bullets inside the luggage of OFWs and tourists, the discovery of which have been routinely assailed by those from whom these bullets were found,’’ Recto said.

Recto cited a joint United Nations (UN) and Norwegian group study revealed that while the country’s Bureau of Customs (BoC) data showed that the Philippines imported 265,149 guns from 2000 to 2010, sales documents of exporting countries, however, showed that the Philippines actually imported 434,999 guns from 1996 to 2010.

This data, according to Recto, is cited in an Australian-funded study on illicit arms trade in the Philippines.

Thus, government must arrest the real criminals, particularly those who use guns, he added.

Recto cited a police data that 145 people get robbed every day, 451 people are victimized by thieves every day, 28 women get raped every day, and 27 are killed every day.

“And the only ‘criminal’ they can parade on TV is a hapless OFW who’s been caught with one bullet whose provenance was later doubted by Justice department prosecutors?’’ Recto asked, probably referring to overseas Filipino worker, Gloria Ortinez, 56, who was arrested for alleged possession of a Carbine bullet in her carry-all bag at the Ninoy Aquino International Airport (NAIA) after transferring from her flight from Laoag International Airport (LIA) last Oct. 26.

OFW advocate Susan Ople asked the Department of Justice (DoJ) to immediately withdraw the case filed against Ortinez whose “crime’’ could lead to a 12-year jail term. Ortinez was on her way back to Hong Kong where she had worked as a domestic helper the past 20 years.

Vice Presidential candidate Sen. Ferdinand “Bongbong’’ R. Marcos Jr. assailed the unabated practice at the airport of “tanim bala’’ (bullet planting) on hapless OFWs.

Victims of alleged possession of bullets are always open to extortion.

Recto said Congress needs to revisit Republic Act (RA) 10591, or the Comprehensive Firearms and Ammunition Regulation Act where the penalty for illegal possession of ammunition is prision mayor, from six years and one day to 12 years. (MARIO CASAYURAN)