Advocacy Mindanow: Let’s arm media! PDF Print E-mail
Wednesday, 11 January 2012 14:50

A publisher and radio commentator, Christopher Guarin in General Santos City is the latest murder victim. He was shot a few days ago in his car while driving his family home after his radio program. He managed to jump out after the first volley but he was finished off when they caught up with him. He is 2012’s first media man to die violently.  Whether he was murdered because he was a media practitioner or a businessman is still an issue but of no moment now. This brings back to public debate the need to allow media men as a policy to bear arms for their personal protection as they ply their usually dangerous trade. Especially those in the provinces and security-challenged areas. Today’s regulations allow civilians, like cashiers whose nature of work requires special protection, to bear arms and carry them outside residence. Others, including media men will have first to show proof of specific threats to their lives and limbs before they get their permits to carry (PTC) from the firearms and explosive unit of the PNP.

And the fees are pretty stiff, including the process, so that only those who can afford, with some connections get theirs in a jiffy.

In the case of Chris, he got his threats beforehand alright but even if he applied forthwith for a PTC, his PTC would not have been issued by then when he was attacked. I met him last when I visited Gensan during a media summit a few weeks ago. Chris had just started a modest daily news sheet called TATAK NEWS.  With what happened to him, and others, we should go beyond condemning this blatant attack. Aside from solving the crime, the authorities must assist media men from being helpless victims of those armed criminals. Several others before Chris suffered the same fate.

MY YOUNGER DAYS —— I recall during my exciting life as a young reporter, right after college, I had to arm myself always with a gun to protect myself. In fact I felt I was not fully dressed leaving the house then without feeling the heavy metal discreetly tucked in my waistline. It started because of an incident. I wrote a bylined article headlined by the Mindanao Times about the smuggling of bales of used clothing called “ukay ukay “ and reported the alleged connivance of a local Customs official. The following day, the said Customs official accosted me in our favorite coffee shop (“Merco”) and threatened me with a drawn gun. I was shocked and so scared I just left in a huff. Then I started arguing with myself whether I should write a follow-up story on the smuggling case. Or should I stop taking coffee at Merco, which was just across the street? I made a decision. I went to see the Constabulary provincial commander then, the late Major Rogaciano Espiritu, reported the threat and asked for his help. He “ issued” me a pistol, complete with MR &MO papers (memorandum receipt and mission order) and I went back to the Times office that night, shut the door and windows and fired a few rounds at a sturdy post near my desk to get the feel of it. I hid the bullet marks with a hanging calendar! The next   TIMES issue, I had another headline follow-up story about the smuggling.  Then I swaggered to Merco across the street hoping to meet my favorite Customs official ready for a “showdown” if he would try the same trick on me again. Of course nothing of that sort happened. We were patched up by common friends. But I did not stop writing about the anomalies at the Customs office.

Another case in point.  At the height of NPA atrocities in Davao City and the high incidence of military abuses in the early ’80s, I was president of the Davao chapter of Integrated Bar of the Philippines. I had to speak out and denounce the NPAs as well as the abusive military men. But in doing this, I had to carry a gun, already cocked everywhere I went. I had it in my desk drawer. Then on my lap while driving my Volks to office. Otherwise, I would not have the balls to denounce the bad guys. Everyday, policemen and civilians were gunned down in the streets by the NPA sparrow units. Being a helpless sitting duck to them was the last thing in my mind. Of course I was shit scared in some instances, especially when an anti-personnel armored carrier parked in front of my house in the middle of the night right after I lambasted a military commander for maltreating curfew violators in the south. Lucky me but there were no major incidents. But the gun made me bolder and freer to do what I felt was the right thing to do.

ARMING CIVILIANS — If journalists or other civilians for that matter feel protected or that they feel secure that they are not so helpless during crisis situations, they will not be easy prey to attacks and threats. They will not be left at the mercy of the bad guys. Journalists will not be easily cowed into silence. But then we cannot expect adequate and full protection from the police and the authorities. That’s just physically impossible.

This now brings me to my point: I strongly and vigorously support the arming of civilians, with proper legal documents and permits. No, not with the not-so-legal MR or MO but with proper PNP firearms explosive unit’s issued license and permit to carry. Then, it is a must that they undergo proper orientation and training on gun handling. If the bad guys know that his prospective victim has the capability to fight back, he will definitely think twice before he does something.

Here come gunless society advocates who oppose arming civilians. Well and good! But what are they doing about criminals who are illegally armed? If the bad guys can freely flaunt the law brandishing weapons while the law-abiding civilians don’t bear arms as the gunless proponents posit, then don’t you think we are leaving the civilians and the good guys at the total mercy of the bad guys? As stated, the police and authorities cannot physically protect all of us.

We must then do our own share and do something to protect ourselves. The law of survival and self-defense is innate — a natural law in all of us. Allowing persons to own and carry firearms is one way. But having said this, there are also exceptions and different situations to factor in. For one, being armed or not should be an individual decision by the person concerned.  Because there are also situations where being armed in certain places is not necessary or is an inconvenience or worse, an invitation to more dangers than being secure. Hence, let’s treat this on a case to case and situational basis.

CHRIS NOT ARMED — In the case of the recent Gensan incident of Chris Guarin, I was informed by the victim’s friend Inquirer correspondent Aquiles Zonio that Chris was unarmed at the time he was shot. Otherwise, after the first volley of gunfire at him while in his car with his family, instead of jumping out of the car and running away and being finished off helplessly, he would have been able to fight back if he were armed.  But that’s on hindsight and water under the bridge.

I was informed that Gensan’s gutsy lady Mayor Darlene Antonino Custodio is assisting media men along this line. She even volunteered to shoulder the cost of getting the necessary firearm papers and permits.  (The cost of licensing and permit to carry, by the way, is a bit stiff. A total of about P12, 000 to P15, 000? And the process a bit stiff too.) Thank you for taking the right step, Mayor Darlene. I’m volunteering to help train them to shoot fast And straight! LOL!

My bottom line however is that media men need not always rely on the help of generous souls, like the Gensan city mayor (or in my case before, the Constabulary commander) to get the protection they need. They should owe it to no one. A policy to implement it is what is needed.

GUN LICENSING BILL  — By the way, I got word during my hosting of the PPSA national shooting competition last month, that there is a pending bill in Congress rationalizing gun ownership and licensing. Instead of a permit for every firearm, the license will be issued to the individual person with specification on what firearm he is qualified to own and carry. Similar to a driver’s license where a person with license can drive any registered vehicle. Of course the firearm, just like the vehicle must also be separately and generally registered. Let’s discuss and support this bill if appropriate.  Write or text or email your congressman.

SPORTS SHOOTING — And before I forget, here are a few things to remember:

Don’t carry a gun if you are not legally authorized.

Don’t carry a gun if you have not been oriented and trained how to handle it properly and safely.

Don’t draw your gun if you are not prepared to fire and shoot!

Don’t point your gun at someone or something unless you are prepared and willing to shoot that target. (you may mount your most hated person’s picture — but not your mother-in-law’s, please —in the practice range as target if you wish!)

Owning and firing a gun, by the way, is not all about defending one’s self or harming or shooting at someone.  It’s also an exciting sport!
Go ask President Noynoy. He’s not only a straight talker. He is a straight shooter too!