Just my opinion
by Raïssa Robles
Simply put, match the bullet with the bearer.
Supt. Aplasca was quoted by ABS-CBN News as saying that upon the orders of Duterte, passengers caught with ammunition in their baggage would be questioned. The airport police would determine then and there if the passenger belonged to any terrorist or criminal group.
If they don’t, the bullet will be confiscated and they would be allowed to continue their travel.
Netizens praised Duterte’s solution and called transport secretary Jun Abaya of the former administration “tanga” (stupid) for not doing what Duterte did.
The solution was simple, one netizen even said quoting a Public Attorney’s Office lawyer: “The bullet must be with a gun to make a case!”
ABS-CBN News then quoted Supt. Aplasca as saying:
“Laglag-bala modus operandi is a thing of the past and we assure the public that they no longer worry that they will miss their flight or get arrested at our airport for possession of an ammunition.”
“Tanim-bala” cases only landed in the news last year when these became a hot button issue, after the elderly and overseas contract workers were stopped at the airport terminal because bullets were found in their luggage. The bullets, they complained, had been planted there without their knowledge for blackmailing purposes.
Long before that, empty bullet casings were being confiscated from outbound passengers. So much so that signs had been placed in the airport for passengers to stop using empty bullet shells as amulets. Some even used live bullets.
Now, I’m not a lawyer but there seem to be two things wrong with that solution.
First, it’s illegal.
On May 29, 2013, Congress approved a comprehensive firearms and ammunition law. You can access the law here. Section g of Article V penalized with prision mayor (from one month, one day to six months in jail) “any person who shall unlawfully acquire or possess ammunition for small arm or Class-A light weapon”.
“Ammunition” is defined as “a complete unfixed unit consisting of a bullet, gunpowder, cartridge case and primer or loaded shell for use in any firearm”. This means, one cannot be arrested for merely possessing empty bullet casings. However, the casings are confiscated because in other foreign airports, mere possession of such empty casings could be grounds for detention and deportation.
If that person happened to also illegally possess a small arm, then the penalty for illegal possession of the bullet would be “absorbed” and that person would just be punished with illegal possession of a weapon, which carried a heavier penalty. This section clearly shows that a person caught with ammunition but without a gun could be punished with a jail term.
By December 2013, the IRR (Implementing Rules and Regulations) were issued. You can see it here. That IRR explained Section G in simpler terms:
“g) The penalty of prision mayor in its minimum period shall be imposed upon any person who shall unlawfully acquire or possess ammunition for a small arm. If the violation of this paragraph is committed by the same person charged with the unlawful acquisition or possession of a small arm, the former violation shall be absorbed by the latter;”
The law does not make an exception for grandmothers or non-terrorists or OCWs. It clearly states “any person who shall unlawfully acquire or possess ammunition for a small arm”.
If you don’t have any permit to carry a firearm or ammunition outside your home, then you fall under “any person”.
Second, what President Duterte has ordered the airport police to do could have dangerous consequences. They are now required to make snap judgments on whether a certain person is not a terrorist nor a member of a criminal gang.
In other words, the same people you couldn’t trust earlier with planted ammunition, you’re now vesting with serious profiling powers.
At the very least, to lower the incidents of stopping people at the airport in order to avoid tanim-bala arrests from being reported in the media, the airport police might be tempted to look the other way.
That would be dangerous, what with terrorist incidents rising in many parts of the world.
With just one bullet, one could make a small improvised explosive device:
What’s wrong with just confiscating the bullet and letting them board the airplane?
Because the current law does not allow it.
Congress has to amend the law first. And insert safeguards so that terrorists will not use it.
So, let me ask the lawyers out there: Is President Duterte violating the law by ordering a stop to ‘tanim bala’ arrests?