‘Sleeping giant’ justifies
ban, says police general
By: Francis Allan L. Angelo
A “SLEEPING giant” is the main reason why the Police Regional Office (PRO-6) requested and implemented a gun ban in the 5th congressional district of Iloilo.
C/Supt. Cipriano Querol, PRO-6 director, said they will not wait for the sleeping giant to wake up and bite, the reason why he asked PNP Director General Raul Bacalzo to suspend permits to carry firearms outside of residence (PTCFOR) in the district.
“That place is where sleeping giants can wreck violence anytime. Why should we wait for it to awaken? We might as well eliminate that sleeping giant before it wakes up,” he said.
Querol did not elaborate on the so-called “sleeping giant” in the light of the protests raised by local officials led by Gov. Arthur Defensor Sr. against the gun ban which took effect July 1 to January 15, 2012.
The PRO-6 had cited rising lawlessness in the 5th district as the main reason for the gun ban which affects the towns of Ajuy, Estancia, Balasan, Carles, Concepcion, Sara, Batad and San Dionisio. Exempted from the PTCFOR suspension were Barotac Viejo, Lemery and San Rafael.
“Our main problems are in the campaign against wanted persons, loose firearms and criminal gangs. If we don’t have gun ban, unlicensed gun holders mix up with legitimate gun bearers. It’s hard to determine who is who. With this scheme, only law enforcers can bear arms,” Querol said.
The PRO-6 director said their main objective is to flush out lawless elements in the 5th district “because if they are not there, our work gets easier.”
“Our main task is just to secure the area so they will not come back anymore. It’s purely police work and I have been planning this for a long time. In fact, the creation of the task force was conceptualized as early as October 2010 when I assumed as regional director. It’s only now that it was fully materialized,” he added.
UPPING THE ANTE
Defensor also questioned why three towns were exempted from the gun ban if indeed crime was rife in the 5th district.
Defensor said he does not mind the formation of special task force that will handle peace and order in Northern Iloilo but he doubts the soundness of imposing the gun ban as it will affect only legitimate gun holders.
The governor said he cannot see the wisdom in Querol’s decision to impose gun ban in the area on such “flimsy basis.”
Querol said the towns of Barotac Viejo, Lemery and San Rafael were “out of route of the passage of criminal elements and transport of loose firearms.”
Querol said if there is clamor over the exemption of the three towns, he can always include them or even impose the gun ban for the entire province.
“If it is the clamor of the public, we can adjust our operational conditions. We can ask our Chief PNP to suspend permits to carry in the entire province of Iloilo,” he said.
The PRO-6 chief cited the cases of Zamboanga City, Abra and Masbate where gun bans were also imposed due to peace and order problems.
Querol also said that the 5th district has been the traditional hot spot in the province during election period.
“It’s our area of concern every election because everybody knows that there is a problem there. Let’s not wait for the problem to worsen,” he said.
PRO-6 implemented the gun ban after receiving the order suspending the PTCFOR which was approved last July 5.
Querol said they will mount sustained checkpoints and other anti-criminality drives through Task Force Kalinung/Northern Iloilo headed by S/Supt. Manuel Felix.
Felix, former provincial director of Negros Occidental, assured that respect for human rights will prevail during their operations in the 5th district.
Felix said they also informed the Philippine Army about the gun ban.
Only members of law enforcement agencies wearing prescribed uniforms can carry firearms in the 5th district.
PRO-6 will grant exemption to any person after evaluation and approval of the national command.