Guns and Gaffes: Finding the Story in the Data
CHEERS TO The Philippine Star for catching a strange “coincidence” in the serial numbers of guns seized in separate encounters in Quezon City.
Analyzing data obtained from police spot reports, public press releases and police blotters, the Star reported that the serial numbers of 29 out of 300 guns seized by the Quezon City police in operations conducted since July 1, 2016 appeared repetitively. These guns were recovered from 26 encounters in the city, 22 of which were drug related incidents.
The Star detected the recording of one serial number as often as twice to six times on other guns in different crime scenes. The firearms recovered were also “of the same caliber, make and model, either cal.38 or cal.45, and often Armscor and Colt.” (“QCPD recovers guns with same serial numbers“)
In a separate report, the Star cited Senator Panfilo Lacson who told radio station dzMM that it is possible that guns were “recycled” to make it appear that the victims fought back, forcing the law enforcers to kill them. He said that he is considering an investigation of this matter with the officials of the PNP Firearms and Explosives Office (PNP-FEO). (“Lacson eyes probe of guns with same serial numbers“)
But QCPD director Chief Supt. Guillermo Eleazar denied the senator’s allegation, clarifying that the 29 handguns recovered were all accounted for and turned over to the crime laboratory of the PNP, dismissing the cases of similar serial numbers as “mere coincidence.” The QCPD director said “illegal gun manufacturers only put serial numbers on loose firearms to give them a “semblance of legitimacy.” However, he also said that the PNP has no actual database to check whether a serial number has appeared in previously recovered guns. (“QCPD:No planting, recycling of guns“)
But the Star went through a database of the PNP-FEO, which showed 35 different serial numbers for 105 registered firearms. Some of these numbers were similar to those found in QCPD operations.
The report reflects the importance of the paper trail. Good reporting requires scrutiny of official documents and records. The Philippine Star’s initiative to look more closely at police documents calls attention to irregularities in police operations undertaken to implement the government’s drug policy.
Unlike other reports which would have been satisfied with just quoting the sources, this one diligently found the data that should have raised questions and prompted the police to publicize the “strange coincidence”. Their silence until now raises serious questions.