Camp Crame, QC, Jan. 30, 2003 - President Arroyo yesterday ordered a ban on civilians carrying firearms in public places in a bid to curb criminality. She also told the PNP to suspend the issuance of permits to carry firearms outside of residence (PTCFOR).

The president's directives took effect yesterday, the PNP said.

"Civilians may no longer be allowed to bring their guns outside their residence," Arroyo said at the 12th PNP Foundation Day in Camp Crame.

"Thus, I am directing the PNP chief (Hermogenes Ebdane Jr.) to suspend indefinitely the issuance of permits to carry firearms in public places. The issuance of permits will now be limited only to ownership and possession of guns, not to carry them in public places," she said.

Arroyo said criminals "will find it more difficult ... if we enforce gun ban in public places."

"Henceforth, only the uniformed men in the military and law-enforcement officers are authorized to carry firearms in public places and only pursuant to existing law," she added.

Senior Supt. Leopoldo N. Bataoil, PNP spokesman, said: "All issued PTCFORs are temporarily suspended."

The PNP temporarily suspended the issuance of PTCFORs two weeks ago in the wake of the road rage killing of Ateneo Law School graduate Jay Llamas.

Arroyo said those who want to use their guns for target practice "will be given special and temporary permits from time to time and only for that purpose."

Those issued special and temporary permits, however, may not load their guns until they are in the firing range, the President said.

Arroyo's order drew a different interpretation from Deputy Director General Virtus Gil, directorial staff chief, who said individuals who already have PTCFORs can still carry their guns.

"Ang pinatitigil lang naman ay ang pag-isyu ng mga PTCFORs. Kung meron ka na, valid pa yan," he said.

Ebdane said current PTCFORs are suspended.

Metro Manila police chief Reynaldo Velasco said he would have those carrying guns arrested, even if they have PTCFORs. Checkpoints will also be set up in the metropolis, he said.

A police spokesman said Arroyo's edict was intended to tighten implementation of a decades-old law which is shot with exemptions that allow influential people, including politicians and movie stars, to carry guns wherever they go.

The current law bans the carrying of guns in public but allows exemptions for people holding risky jobs, such as judges, prosecutors, cashiers, doctors assigned in remote areas and those living under death threats.

Shootings during robberies and personal disputes are commonplace, with an average of 16 murders committed every day.

Kidnappings at gunpoint are not unusual, earning gangs an average of P145 million in ransoms annually from 1993 to 2001.

Crime in the streets and violence by a variety of rebel groups have also become an economic issue, with foreign companies citing safety and security among their major concerns when deciding whether to invest,

Police estimate the number of unlicensed gun holders at 328,000. Licensed gun holders, many with permits to carry their weapons outside their homes, number 800,000.

A police colonel said "there will be very few exemptions allowed" under Arroyo's order.

Arroyo, at the anniversary rites, congratulated the PNP for the low incidence of kidnapping and for having eliminated some of the gangs.

"This is thanks to a combination of intelligence, good police work and a criminal justice system that hands out punishment," the President said.

All rights reserved