MANILA, Philippines—Three groups have filed a bill in Congress banning the carrying of guns by unauthorized persons in public places through a petition for indirect initiative, confident of its passage even if President Benigno Aquino III is a gun enthusiast.
It’s one of the rare instances that a people’s organization (PO) has resorted to the mode of petition for indirect initiative available under Republic Act No. 6735 to get a measure enacted by Congress.
“This is another test to the law. We look at it as people proposing a legislation in Congress directly,” Norman Cabrera, secretary general of Ang Kapatiran Party (AKP), one of the three petitioners, said in an interview.
The petition has arisen from “our difficulty of pushing a bill” without a lawmaker-sponsor in Congress, he said.
Cabrera, Ma. Julieta Wasan of Pro-Life Philippines Foundation Inc. and Leonardo Montemayor of ABA, a party-list group, have asked the House of Representatives to enact their bill seeking to regulate the bearing of firearms in public places.
Under the law, the initiative bill goes through the same legislative procedure as any ordinary piece of legislation, but has precedence over other measures pending in a committee.
It has been referred to the House committee on rules. Deputy Speaker Lorenzo Tañada III and Sen. Franklin Drilon have signified to act as “foster fathers” of the bill, AKP said.
Under RA 6735, the Referendum and Initiative Act, a PO can file a petition for indirect initiative with Congress, containing the salient points of a bill it wants to get enacted into law.
The petitioners are confident that Mr. Aquino, a gun enthusiast, would be converted to endorse the bill, and complete the “unfinished” legacy of his mother, the late President Corazon C. Aquino.
“There will be a conversion,” Reynaldo “Nandy” Pacheco of Gunless Society, one of the many signatories of the petition, said in an interview. This, he added, would not affect the President’s hobby of target shooting.
Cabrera said: “The President may be a gun enthusiast but we have to underscore that the Citizen Protection Act of 2010 does not take away from the individual to own a licensed firearm. But it should only be kept at home.”
Should it become a law, Mr. Aquino could still bring his gun from home to a shooting range. What it seeks to prohibit is the carrying of firearms in public by individuals not authorized by law, he said.
“There should be a realization from him that this will be better for this country. Who will directly benefit from this bill? Ninety-eight percent of Filipinos will immediately benefit,” Cabrera said, pointing out that there are one million licensed and one million unlicensed firearms.
If at all, even Olympic shooter Arturo Macapagal and former Philippine National Police Director General Raul Imperial have signed the petition, along with three former senators, the clergy, led by Manila Archbishop Gaudencio Rosales and the Parish Pastoral Council for Responsible Voting.
In the end, it all boils down to the issue of whether this is good for the country or not, according to Cabrera.