Gunning Down Gun Violence

by Esmar Angelo M. Abobo || Photo Credit: Aaron Favila/The Washington Post

The tragic shooting incident that transpired at the Ateneo de Manila University was one that shook the nation, and with it, exposed the lack of gun control in the Philippines. What was supposed to be a graduation filled with laughter and joy turned into a day of bloodshed filled with panic and grief. The suspect, Chao Tiao Yumol, a physician turned shooter, took the lives of three victims: former Lamitan, Basilan mayor Rose Furigay, her long-time aide Victor George Capistrano, and Ateneo security guard Jeneven Bandiala. Yumol also wounded two victims, including Hannah Furigay—the former mayor’s daughter—who, at that time, was one of the graduates.

What does this say about the current laws on gun control in the Philippines?

The Philippines is relatively permissive in comparison to some countries when it comes to firearms. Almost everyone can possess a gun—from accountants, to cashiers, to physicians like Yumol, to even priests. With this large accessibility to firearms, incidents like homicides and murders due to such weapons are likely bound to happen. 

However, in the Ateneo de Manila University shooting incident, the .45 caliber pistol—one of his two weapons—seized from Yumol was not legally owned by him. It was instead traced back to an active soldier in Mindanao. The lost pistol may not have seemed to be a matter worth significant concern in 2019; three years later, it became a portent of a crime. 

Although owning and carrying a gun is already a great responsibility, the responsibility of securing it is far greater. In this case, armed personnel should not only be responsible for handling firearms but also for ensuring that they don’t fall into the wrong hands. Observing and implementing more restrictive laws may help prevent further similar incidents from happening.

Will implementing stricter laws help reduce the number of cases involving gun violence?

Regulating the accessibility to firearms will significantly reduce the number of deaths caused by gun violence. Although the 1,218 deaths of gun violence cases in 2019 are less than the 5,221 deaths in 2011, it is still a considerable number for a developing country. Should the Philippines resort to restrictive laws like Spain, where the deaths by armed violence in 2019 were reported at 53, suppressing this culture of violence in the country would be possible. 

To Chao Tiao Yumol, you were a physician—a profession that swore to save people’s lives—yet you took away the lives of three people and showed no remorse. Your actions and those who might follow, worship, and sympathize with you shall never be condoned.

To the government, how many more deaths caused by firearms will it take for gun control in the Philippines to be seriously regarded? These deaths aren’t to be dismissed because every single Filipino has the right to feel safe in their homeland. Listen to the voices of the people and take action.

And to the victims’ bereaved families and loved ones, we are with you. We extend our deepest condolences to you. We hope for justice to be served.

This incident is just one of the many episodes of gun violence in the Philippines; this only uncovers the truth that gun violence is a very significant issue in the country that needs to be addressed as soon as possible. Hopefully, with more restrictive laws and proper responsibility regarding firearms, we may see a future where gun violence is less of a threat than it is today.

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