MANILA, Philippines - Fresh debate over gun laws in the country should be focused on policy and not on President Benigno Aquino, who is a known firearms enthusiast, a Palace official said Saturday.
Deputy Presidential spokesperson Abigail Valte, in an interview over state-owned Radyo ng Bayan, shrugged off suggestions made by Siquijor Rep. Orlando Fua that Aquino should give up his guns.
"Perhaps, mas maganda ho kung policy, at the level of policy 'yung pag-uusapan natin at hindi 'yung personal ng Pangulo," Valte said.
She earlier said that it is "an unwarranted assumption
" that the President would not support a gun ban during the holiday season to prevent stray bullets killing people.
At least 2 children were killed and dozens of others were injured by stray bullets from guns fired during the New Year revelry.
Eight people also died Friday morning in a shooting rampage in Cavite.
Valte said tougher penalties on crimes involving guns "is a question for legislation."
"We already have several crimes in place that address, for example, 'yung alarming scandal. The penalty is P200 and you have to remember that the Revised Penal Code was enacted in 1901 yata, so it really has to be updated, which is why the DOJ is working on updating the Revised Penal Code and this is not a secret. I think, they're working already on Book 1, on proposed revision to the Revised Penal Code," she said.
"When it comes to the total gun ban, that is something that has to be discussed with the President because I was monitoring yesterday, and even the Gunless Society was not---kumbaga, hindi total 'yung gun ban na pino-propose nila, but all these proposals will have to be discussed with the President," she added.
Valte, meanwhile, said police should look into their response time in connection with the Cavite massacre.
"Well, 'yung sinasabi po kasi nila is that 30 minutes po ba yata 'yung naging lapse bago ho nakarating ang ating mga police, at dapat tingnan po nila 'yan, 'yung mga response time po nila," she said.
"Kasi katulad dito sa NCR, ini-implement po strictly ni General Espina 'yung two-minute response rule na kailangan ang area of responsibility mo, anywhere within kung nasaan 'yung poste mo, makakarating ka ng dalawang minuto. Perhaps, 'yung provincial director can also look into the response time of 'yung mga rumesponde po doon lalo kung may malapit namang presinto," she added.
Calabarzon regional police director Chief Supt. James Melad told radio dzMM Friday night that they are continuing their investigation into the bloodbath, including possible lapses committed by police, amid allegations that authorities' response was slow.
The police chief of Kawit and his deputy have been relieved of their posts pending an investigation to find out if law enforcers were negligent.
"May mga allegations na mabagal, umabot ng 2 to 3 hours daw (before police were deployed to the crime scene)," Melad said.
However, he added that it only took 9 minutes when police first received a report about the shooting incident for them to go to the area and shoot the suspect.
"Sa aking paniniwala naman, wala naman sigurong mag-aamok ng aabot ng 3 hours," Melad said.