MANILA - Two petitions have been filed with the Supreme Court (SC) on Tuesday that seek to nullify certain provisions of Republic Act (RA) No. 10591, also known as the Comprehensive Firearms and Ammunition Regulation Act of 2013.
The law, signed on May 25, 2013, has become controversial for imposing stricter requirements for obtaining firearm licenses, and stiffer penalties for violators.
The Peaceful Respondent Owners of Guns, Inc. (Progun) filed its petition against the Philippine National Police (PNP), alleging grave abuse of discretion on the part of the PNP for ordering the centralization of all firearms requirements, testing, and licensing in its headquarters in Camp Crame, Quezon City.
The group said this is "arbitrary, whimsical, and so difficult to comply with," considering that there are 1.5 million licensed gun owners in the country spread all over the regions.
Progun also hit the law for being violative of the constitutional guarantee against unreasonable searches, for providing that "all firearms applicants and owners under compulsion to 'waive' their right [to] the privacy of their homes and allow the police to enter their dwelling under the guise of inspection."
Progun stressed that Article 2 Section 2 of the Constitution guarantees the right of citizens to be secure in their homes and dwelling places, and the right of the people against unreasonable and illegal searches and seizures.
"The foregoing constitutional provision against unreasonable searches and seizures was established primarily to protect the people against abuses by the police. The police are now the very same persons who are authorizing themselves to enter into licenses firearms owners' houses and dwellings and search the said places under the guise of 'inspection.'
"[T]his is tantamount to allowing the police to conduct a fishing expedition to find evidence of a crime, even if the licenses firearms holder has not been suspected of anything," the petition read.
Finally, Progun claimed that the PNP's outsourcing of firearms license delivery by courier service violates due process since this system "deprives the licensed firearms holder of his license for the period after approval, when his license is not delivered and of its use for other ancillary purposes."
The petition sought the immediate issuance of a temporary restraining order (TRO) against the implementation of the assailed provisions.
ACOSTA-DELA PAZ PETITION
Licensed gun owners Eric Acosta and Nathaniel Dela Paz filed a separate petition, this time impleading Malacanan, through Executive Secretary Paquito Ochoa, and the Department of the Interior and Local Govt (DILG), through Secretary Mar Roxas, as well as several ranking police officials.
Their petition urged the high court to declare as unconstitutional several provisions of RA No. 10591 and its Implementing Rules and Regulations (IRR), including the following:
SEC 4 (G) of the law insofar as it disqualifies an individual with a pending criminal case from securing a license to own and possess a firearm and to actually own and possess a firearm. Petitioners said this runs counter to the presumption of innocence, and showed government's failure to distinguish those merely accused of an offense or crime from those already convicted.
Sec 10 and 26 of the law inso far as they prohibit ownership of a light weapon from being passed through succession.
Sec 7.3 of the IRR insofar as it omits engineers as among the individuals exempted from the requirement of a threat assessment.
Sec 7.12 insofar as it prohibits the carrying of a firearm inside places of worship and all other commercial or public establishments. Petitioners said this contradicts Sec 7 of the permit to carry firearm outside of residence (PTCFOR) which states that "a permit to carry firearms outside of residence shall be issued by the Chief of the PNP or his/her duly authorized representative to any qualified person." Petitioners pointed out that this section does not mention any exemption such as places of worship and public establishments.
Acosta and Dela Paz also assailed the new rule on the waiver on warrantless searches.
Acosta and Dela Paz did not seek any TRO from the SC, but urged the high court to issue a writ of prohibition to halt the implementation of the provisions they are questioning.
In defense of the new gun control law, the PNP has said that this will curb the proliferation of loose firearms in the country, and speed up the resolution of crimes involving stray bullets and loose firearms since the law mandates that all firearms shall undergo ballistic examination before being put to service.