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P-Noy urged to go ‘gunless’

P-NOY MARKED his first year in office yesterday, speaking at the launch of the Pilipinas Natin movement, and recalling before his largely youthful audience the “sins” of the previous administration and the mood that prevailed over the nation at the time he took office.

Commentators took note of the long list of campaign promises he made and made a count of the admittedly small number he had met. Although I couldn’t help, listening to the listing, wondering if they seriously thought all these could be accomplished in the space of a year.

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Still, there have been high points and low points, and amid a faltering popularity and trust rating and the perception of the presence of “strong factions” within the administration, the President needs to show stronger will and broadcast his message of reform even more firmly, in words and in deeds. He also needs to do some housecleaning, especially in pulling together a working partnership among all those interest groups within the bowels of Malacañang and dispelling the impression of groups working at cross purposes.

Perhaps we expected too much, which is not too hard to do given the hunger for reform that the Arroyo administration created. Maybe we reposed on his person and the people he chose our heavy hopes, our difficult expectations. But P-Noy accepted the mandate, nobody coerced him into the presidency. Bearing with the brickbats and bashing is part of the job description, even if, as he complained in yesterday’s speech, just to respond to his critics he is thinking of turning himself into a the mythical manananggal so he could halve his body and do more than is humanly possible.

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AMONG those wishing P-Noy could use his still-enormous influence and power to move policies forward are the Mga Tagatulak ng Kapayapaan (literally, the “Pushers for Peace”) who wrote him earlier this year to appeal to him to “stop gun violence” in the country.

This he could do, said the signatories to the petition, among them many bishops, priests and lay leaders, by “consolidating the two gun control bills now pending in the House of Representatives and the Senate into one bill and certifying it as urgent.”

The two bills referred to are the Citizen Protection Act of 2010 filed in the House, and Senate Bill 129, authored by Sen. Franklin Drilon to “regulate the carrying of firearms, provide penalties for its violation and other purposes.” Both bills, at the time they were filed, had something in common: to make the Comelec gun ban in place during the 2010 campaign and election period permanent even during the off-election period.

The letter points out that as a crime prevention measure, “the consolidated bill will make the harmless act of carrying a gun in public a criminal offense before such harmless act turns into a violent crime.”

They also remind P-Noy that the bills have roots that date back to almost two decades ago, with their earlier version certified as urgent by P-Noy’s mother, the late President Cory, following the murder of Eldon Maguan by Rolito Go and the shooting of Maureen Hultman and a companion 13 days later.

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INDEED, a year before these bills were filed, President Cory spoke before a gathering of some 300 leaders of civic, religious and other sectors in Malacañang to declare the decade from 1990-2000 a “Decade for Peace.”

“Our quest for peace is for all,” President Cory said, “and not just for a privileged few. We must work for just laws, we must design just economic systems, build just relationships. Peace is a gift we implore from God; peace is the task that is ours to do. All must take part, all must share burdens and sacrifices and labor.”

“Peace power” was the term President Cory introduced on that occasion, saying that with genuine peace, Filipinos could “transform the face of this nation to become the model of an authentic development for the Third World.” She likewise cited various citizens’ initiatives to give “peace a new chance,” including “the campaign for a gunless society.”

Well, that campaign has been around for two decades now, winning the support of young people, clerics, bishops and concerned citizens who affixed their signatures to petition after petition. But disregarding public sentiment and opinion, congressional leaders, which included President Cory’s own brother, then Rep. Jose Cojuangco Jr., derailed the measures filed by pro-gunless legislators, and to this day, the present versions of the gun control bill are still stuck in the congressional mill.

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THE LETTER sent to P-Noy last January, by the way, has yet to be acknowledged. So far, none of the signatories have received the courtesy of a reply, a complaint I’ve also heard from other citizens who’ve written to Malacañang and have been frustrated in their wait for a response.

Which is too bad, because the President could have used it to jumpstart a popular movement that would have established his pro-peace and anti-criminality bona fides.

“Mr. President,” the signatories to the open letter said, “an amazing opportunity has presented itself for you to fulfill the unfinished task left by your mother. We beg you, Mr. President, to consolidate the two bills into one and certify it as urgent by both Houses of Congress so that you can sign it into law.”

It would indeed be a sad day if the President were to miss this opportunity if he continues to ignore the petition and lets the bills once more slide into obscurity. Of course, I’m confident the “Pushers for Peace” will not let go of this advocacy. But I’m not so sure P-Noy’s gun-loving buddies will stay quiet on this issue, either.

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TAGS: Aquino, featured columns, Government, guns, opinion, presidency
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