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Canadian kills two in Philippine court shooting

Publication Date : 23-01-2013


Using a handgun apparently concealed in a folded newspaper, an elderly Canadian facing charges of illegal possession of firearms opened fire in a Philippine courtroom, killing two people and wounding a third, before fatally turning the gun on himself.

Yesterday's gun violence in the central city of Cebu - a popular retirement haven for foreigners - will inflame a heated public debate on whether stricter gun controls are needed following a spate of high-profile shootings in the Philippines since the start of the year.

How the shooter - John Pope, 67, reportedly a retired journalist - got a handgun through court house security checks is already under scrutiny.

Police Senior Superintendent Mariano Natuel told reporters an investigation would be launched into whether guards at the courthouse committed security lapses.

Pope shot dead a doctor who had filed a case against him, and the doctor's lawyer. He then wounded a prosecutor before police opened fire. According to local media reports, Pope was hit three times in the thigh and arm before shooting himself in the right temple.

Reporting from Cebu, ABS-CBN television's Velma Andales said Pope was a "familiar face" at the courthouse because of his court appearances. As well as being charged with threatening behaviour against his victim, Dr Rene Rafols, Pope also faced charges of illegal possession of a firearm in a separate case.

Pope had even visited ABS-CBN's Cebu offices to persuade the network to broadcast a report airing his side of the cases, said  Andales, adding that he was "very demanding".

A gun crime committed by a foreigner is unusual in the Philippines, although the main controversy over this shooting will likely be how Pope got a firearm through the security check.

Pat-downs and baggage checks are carried out at the entrances of government buildings, as well as malls and offices. Foreigners, however, are often not as closely screened as locals.

"Security seems to have been lax," said anti- crime activist Dante Jimenez, who heads the high-profile watchdog group Volunteers Against Crime and Corruption. "At the minimum, metal detectors are needed as security screens in high-risk places such as courthouses."

Foreigners are banned from owning firearms. But illegal firearms - police estimate more than a million are on the loose - are relatively easy to get hold of, especially those made by backyard gunsmiths.

The top news story in the Philippines so far this year has been the deadly shooting of 13 armed suspects in two vehicles in a hail of gunfire at a security checkpoint in Quezon province on Jan6.

The National Bureau of Investigation is readying its probe into the highly controversial shootings, amid speculation that the police and soldiers at the checkpoint used excessive force or that the suspects were gunned down in a rubout.


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