Privilege Speech – No Arms for Atrocities!

Mr. Speaker, distinguished colleagues, ladies and gentlemen, I rise on a matter of personal and collective privilege.

I must talk about humanity’s struggle to build a more peaceful world. This is a historic moment with the question: Will the world have a global standard on weapons trade? Must we consent to a future where arms proliferate and breed humanitarian and human rights abuses? Last July 27, 2012, the United Nations was unable to reach an agreement on the Arms Trade Treaty (ATT) during the UN Diplomatic Conference held in New York City with representatives from over 170 countries. However, Diplomats at the UN remain optimistic further talks on a draft treaty could lead to a vote on a final ATT by the end of the year.

Mr. Speaker, there is too much at stake for the Philippines in this ATT Agreement. Consider that 6 years ago, Akbayan delivered a privilege speech on the proliferation of small arms. In 2006, when Rep. Risa Hontiveros delivered her speech there were 638 million firearms[1]. Now we have 875 million[2] worldwide. In 2006, there were 800,000 legal and 415,000 loose firearms[3] in the country. Now the Philippines has an estimated 1.1 million loose firearms[4],a 300% increase in just 6 years.

Weapons in the wrong hands undermine peace, our human security, development and poverty-reduction initiatives. Think of weapons proliferation and the Ampatuan massacre. Consider the easy access to small arms and the climate of impunity that surrounds the extra-judicial killings of journalists and activists.

Arms proliferation also facilitates gender-based violence against women.[5] Irresponsible weapons trading and diversion to illicit markets can exacerbate our problem with armed conflicts, and pose serious threats to human rights and international humanitarian law.

Comprehensive policies must include gun trafficking and international trade. Three years ago, a Panamanian-registered, Philippine-owned ship, MV Capt. Ufuk[6] docked in the Philippines. Turkey was the ship’s port of origin, and along the way passed it through Ghana and Congo[7] allegedly for ship repair before briefly stopping in Malaysia and Indonesia en route to Mariveles, Bataan. The ship contained Indonesian-made, Belgian designed SS1-V1 assault rifles ordered by Mali, a small State in West Africa. When the Bureau of Customs and the PNP raided the ship, only 5 gun crates remained out of the 20 crates with as many as 200 rifles. As then Sen. Rodolfo Biazon noted, “This is not just a case of loose firearms but a national security issue because 200 rifles could arm a battalion, (or) arm two companies.”[8] This is a strong argument on the international nature of our local problem with the illicit trade of weapons. There are gaps in our importation and exportation controls[9], and transport procedures regarding weapon shipments.

What is alarming? What is alarming is the sheer number of weapons in the world, and its annual authorized trade that exceeds more than USD 60 Billion. What is alarming is the 747,000 deaths per year because of armed violence worldwide. There are two bullets for every representative in this hall. In fact, there are two bullets for every person on this planet.

Mr. Speaker, there are international regulations in the trade of bananas but no regulations in trade of weapons—trade in nearly all categories of manufactured goods is regulated by rules which bind exporters and importers to commonly agreed conduct.

I call on Congress to support a robust global standard for the arms trade and the ‘no arms for atrocities’ principle. The following are concrete actions that we can spearhead:

One, At the national level, we must strive for the Matuwid na Daan in arms transfers. No arms for atrocities. Congress must enact policies that exact accountability for our international arms and ammunitions transfers.

The Philippines has a growing firearms and ammunitions industry and supporting a robust Arms Trade Treaty in the UN does not mean curtailing these industries[10] but will regulate the trade in weapons so that they may not fall into the hands of abusers.

Two, Congress must enact into law the set of criteria for our arms trade. Our national laws must support the spirit of a strong ATT. Until now we have no clear-cut policies that ensure human rights protection in our weapons trade. We must not allow arms shipment to butchers that will commit grave violations of human rights and humanitarian laws. No arms for atrocities. Mr. Speaker, the weapons industry in the Philippines must not authorize transfers if there is a substantial risk that those weapons would:

a. Be used to perpetuate or facilitate high levels of armed violence including gender-based violence, to particular rape and other forms of sexual violence;

b. Be used to commit or facilitate violations of international human rights or humanitarian law;

c. Impair efforts at poverty reduction or achieving sustainable development.

Three, Congress must support the adoption of the ATT by supporting the Global Parliamentary Declaration. Since last week, members of the Philippine Action Network to Control Arms, have been soliciting our parliamentary support. I encourage fellow representatives to sign the parliamentary declaration on the Arms Trade Treaty.

Mr. Speaker, the peoples of the world have spoken. To date, more than one million photo petitioners and 600,000 petition signatures were gathered and handed over to the UN Secretary General this month. I would like to take this privilege to reiterate the peoples’ longstanding call for a robust and legally-binding standard that ‘1) covers all weapons and transfers, 2) ensures wider transparency in the arms trade, and where 3) transfers are governed by strong criteria supporting international humanitarian law, human rights and gender, socio-economic development, and conflict prevention and reduction.’[11]

By the time I finish this speech, 50 persons would have died because of the illicit and unregulated trade in arms. Now is the time for a bulletproof Arms Trade Treaty that will save lives. Let us do our part in humanity’s quest for a just and peaceful world. No arms for atrocities! Maraming salamat po.



[1] Hontiveros (2006) “Control Arms Now!” Privilege speech delivered in Congress on 7 August 2006.

[2]Small Arms Survey (2012) Retrieved July 2012 from <http://www.smallarmssurvey.org/weapons-and-markets.html&gt;

[3]Hontiveros (2006) Ibid.

[4]Felipe (2009) “PNP revokes Mayor Ampatuan’s 19 gun licenses”. The Philippine Star. 30 November 2009

[5]Control Arms (2012) Global Parliamentary Declaration on the Arms Trade Treaty.

[6]Vivanews (2009) Indonesia weapons smuggled to Philippines. 28 August.

[7]Manila Bulletin (2009) British captain of arms ship seeks government protection. 26 August.

[8]Philippine Daily Inquirer (2009) Biazon seeks Senate probe of gun smuggling. 03 August.

[9]SIPRI (2009) Arms transfers to Asia and Oceania. Background paper. Retrieved July 2012 from <http://unidir.org/pdf/activites/pdf4-act485.pdf&gt;

[10]PhilANCA and WE Act 1325 (2012) Letter to the President.

[11]Arms Trade Treaty Brief (June 2012).

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