Shooting rampage stokes Philippines firearms debate

Neighbours look at the spot where a gunman was killed by responding police following a shooting rampage south of Manila.Picture: AP

A man with domestic problems has shot dead eight people, including a pregnant woman and two children, after taking alcohol and drugs in a rampage near the Philippine capital Manila.

It ended when he was shot dead by police.

At least eight other people were wounded in Kawit township, south of Manila, officials said.

The violence happened days after the death of a seven-year-old girl hit in the head by a stray bullet during New Year’s Eve celebrations in Manila sparked public criticism over lax gun control in the Philippines.

Ronald Bae, who was killed in the shootout with police, had been on a “drug and alcohol binge” with his friends since Monday, drinking and taking methamphetamine.

Officials said he left a store where he and his friends were drinking but later returned with the caretaker of his house in Kawit and began the shooting spree in the surrounding neighbourhood.

The man had left his Kawit neighbourhood about a year ago after he lost an election for village chairman. He returned because of a “marital problem” with his wife, whom he had left before the New Year.

It was not immediately clear why Bae went on the rampage. Residents heard Bae threatening to kill the caretaker if he did not reload Bae’s pistol during the shooting.

“He just shot at anyone he saw. You could see that these were really acts of a madman,” said an official.

Among the victims was a seven-year-old girl who was shot inside her home. The girl’s two-year-old sister and four-year-old brother, who was Bae’s godson, were wounded and in critical condition.

The pregnant woman died after being shot in the stomach. Her six-month-old foetus also died.

GMA television reported that the woman made a frantic call for help to her mother, Baby Alberto, who heard screams and gunshots.

“She said, ’Please, don’t! Please don’t!”’ Mrs Alberto quoted her daughter as pleading with the gunman. She said she was found dead in the bathroom hugging her three-year-old daughter, who also died.

Edwin Lacorte, an uncle of the children who were shot, said he could hear them screaming from his home nearby.

“I could not do anything,” he said. “I heard the shots.”

Mr Lacorte said he later saw bullet-riddled cushions that the children had apparently used to protect themselves.

Mr Lacorte said that Bae soon approached his house but he fled with his wife and their four children, two grandchildren and three nieces.

“He was shooting at us as we were running,” he said.

Abigail Valte, a spokeswoman for President Benigno Aquino III, said the killings “will certainly fuel the efforts of the (Philippine National Police) in its drive against loose firearms.”

Police estimate there are about half a million firearms that are either unlicensed or have expired licences around the country.

Proliferation of firearms – some smuggled and some manufactured locally – has long fuelled crime, political violence and Muslim and communist insurgencies that have raged for decades in parts of the country.

Previous attempts by authorities to clamp down on unregistered weapons have yielded little result.

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