Jul 012013

Guns will no longer be allowed, and security measures will be tightened inside the House of Representatives after former Cagayan de Oro first district Rep. Benjo Benaldo was found bleeding from an apparent self-inflicted gunshot wound at the South Lobby last week.

Those entering the Batasan complex in Quezon City, including congressmen, must now undergo strict inspection, according to report on GMA News TV’s State of the Nation on Monday night.

Even congressmen and their security personnel will not be allowed to bring guns inside, the report said.

“We have a standing policy na hindi naman talaga allowed ang guns in the House. In fact, may areas of surrendering,” Atty. Marilyn Barua-Yap, Sec. Gen., House of Representatives, said in the same report.

Bodyguards are supposed to leave their guns with the Legislative Security Bureau, but the rule was not strictly implemented, according to Antipolo City Rep. Romeo Acop, who suggested stricter regulations on carrying firearms inside the House of Representatives.
“I suggest that we revisit our regulations on carrying firearms. Let us find out if regulations are lacking or the rules are not implemented,” Acop, a former police general, said on Friday.

Representatives Benjie Agarao (Laguna), Noel Villanueva (Tarlac), and Sherwin Tugna (Civac party-list) agreed with Acop.

“Its members are supposedly honorable men and women and it is incumbent upon them to act accordingly. If ever there are threats on the life of any member of Congress, it is the duty of law enforcement agencies of government to provide the needed security even for the ordinary people,” Villanueva said.

Under the new rules, security personnel of the House of Representatives will thoroughly screen those who enter. Screening includes a metal detector test and X-ray machine. 

Bayan Muna Rep. Neri Colmenares said he was in favor of the tightened security. He said he was ready to follow the new rules, despite having received a text message that appeared to be a death threat. 

“Wala kaming problema na pati kami ay dadaan sa security procedures. Ang taong bayan ay dapat ay hindi maapektuhan,” Colmenares said in the State of the Nation report Monday.

Meanwhile, Benaldo’s office remains cordoned off, as the investigation continues. 

The Quezon City Police District recovered a 9-mm handgun inside Benaldo’s office and bullet fragments inside Benaldo’s personal room. 

Records of the Philippine National Police’s Firearms and Explosives Office (PNP-FEO) show that the permit to carry for Benaldo’s handgun already expired on March 22, 2012.

Quezon City police investigators said they did not find any suicide note in Benaldo’s office, contrary to reports from other media networks claiming the congressman left P100,000 and a suicide note before the incident.

QCPD head Senior Superintendent Richard Albano also said Benaldo could face possible charges of alarm and scandal for the incident, should a complaint be lodged with police.

Benaldo is currently in stable condition at the St. Luke’s Medical Center in Quezon City. According to his attending physician Dr. Jose Oreta, Benaldo sustained a gunshot wound in the left side of his chest. Doctors removed the affected portion of his lungs, and repaired broken blood vessels, the State of the Nation report said. 

Meanwhile, Benaldo’s wife, Brazilian actress-model Daiana Menezes, appealed for privacy.  “Benjo assured me that he himself would address all of you regarding the matter when he is fit to do so… Whatever reasons surrounded this misfortune, they do not include any reasons stemming from our relationship as a married ocuple. In spite of our recent differences, we still continue to love each other,” Menezes said in a statement.

The couple had been in the news recently after Menezes posted a series of messages and pictures against domestic violence on social networking sites earlier this month, leading to speculation that she was a victim of domestic abuse herself. She later denied she was a victim of abuse, and said the posts were only meant to get Benaldo’s attention. Carmela G. Lapeña/RSJ, GMA News

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