As a nationwide gun ban took effect yesterday in the Philippines to reduce political violence as the country’s elections draw near, an anti-piracy group has asked for an exemption. Their director says that having firearms is essential for holding investigations and enforcing intellectual property rights.
Elections in the Philippines have a history of being violent affairs. As recently as 2009, a convoy of 40 people was hijacked by gunmen, resulting in the deaths of 13 women and 8 men. Some of the victims were beheaded and mutilated.
As May’s elections draw closer, already there have been reports of killings and attacks on candidates, many of them with firearms. In order to dampen down this violence, the government implemented a nationwide firearms ban yesterday, setting up 3,500 checkpoints staffed by 100,000 soldiers and police officers.
Quite wisely these uniformed individuals are now the only people allowed to carry guns and even off-duty policemen must comply – already 3 government officials have been arrested for breaches. There is one group, however, who think these temporary laws shouldn’t apply to them.
The Optical Media Board (OMB), a civilian outfit which tries to combat piracy and copyright violations, has written to the Commission on Election asking that its officers be given an exemption from the ban.
According to OMB executive director Anthony Liongson, his staff need firearms for conducting investigations, carrying out raids and for other activities related to tackling piracy and violations of intellectual property rights.
Liongson put forward the names of 150 of his staff who he wants to be exempted from the law and allowed to carry pistols, revolvers, shotguns and rifles. Amazingly some staff have up to seven firearms.
It seems pretty clear that the government is serious about this firearms ban and avoiding bloodshed, but surely, fighting the non-violent act of disc copying shouldn’t warrant an exemption. Or should it?
People use weapons to fight over oil almost constantly, so since intellectual property is now the oil of the 21st century, perhaps this is the appropriate response after all……