The government effort to weigh in the public clamor to adopt a more stringent policy on gun control is facing doubts even before an honest-to-goodness campaign, in the absence of new guidelines, could be launched by the Philippine National Police (PNP)
For a country with a current population of 92.34 million based on last year’s national census, the Philippines, the 2010 PNP report showed, has an estimated 1,110,372 loose firearms all over the country, the biggest concentration of which is in the National Capital Region (NCR), or Metro Manila, with the Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao (ARMM), the home base of the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF), registering the second highest at 114,189.
The other regions with sizeable loose firearms are:
Tagalog region or 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.
But these figures vary given the unreliable estimates the PNP releases.
In 2011, for instance, then PNP Director General Nicanor Bartolome admitted before the Manila Overseas Press Club (MOPC) that the number of unlicensed firearms throughout the archipelago that could potentially be used to commit crimes was placed at least 600,000.
He said that firearms used in crimes are not registered or licensed, adding that “for every crime that we solve involving firearms, that’s a reduction in the number of loose firearms.”
Ironically, the responsibility to run after these loose firearms is a 140,000-strong police force, a third of which does not even have government-issued firearms.
In 2011, the police agency also said, a total of 610,156 firearms in the hands of gun owners, including government outfits and private firms, were not renewed.
As of October 2012, according to the PNP Firearms and Explosives Office (FEO), there were 562,000 unrenewed gun licenses in the country, with police units around the country seizing only 4,911 loose firearms.
But the number of loose firearms, a generic term for any and all unlicensed guns, whether owned individually or by a juridical entity, on a year to year basis, keeps on increasing.
To control the use of illegal firearms, PROGUN (Peaceful Responsible Owners of Guns) suggested that licensing of firearms should be done individually.
'Under the system of 'license the individual, not the firearm', the Philippine-based gun group said, "a loose firearm may then be strictly defined as one that has not undergone manufacturer registration. It cuts down the bulk of legally purchased firearms that are only defined as loose because their licenses have not been renewed. In many cases, the owners of these firearms are generally law-abiding and could not credibly be categorized as one of the bad guys. In this way, the term 'loose firearm' would be reserved for those that are smuggled into the country or illegally produced."
Aside from the guns with unrenewed licenses, loose firearms, whether used for criminal intent, personal safety, security services, or corporate use, are also acquired through smuggling, illegal local manufacture, illicit disposal or purchase, and unlawful acquisition using authorized channels, to name just a few.
Those in the know claim the term ‘unlicensed guns’ also extends to long and short firearms recovered during military encounters but are not reported, licensed firearms reported as lost, guns illegally sold by soldiers to rebels and criminals, firearms acquired through multi-national military exercises, and low-caliber guns used by security guard agencies but using prohibited serial numbers.