Comelec exempts President Aquino from election gun ban

By Ferdinand G. Patinio

MANILA, Nov. 18 (PNA) — President Aquino is now allowed to carry firearms during the entire Election Period of the May 2016 national and local polls.

This after the Commission on Elections (Comelec) has included the Chief Executive in the list of those that will be exempted in the election gun ban to be implemented starting Jan. 10 up to June 8, 2016.

According to Comelec Resolution No. 10015 issued by the commission en banc, “The President of the Republic of the Philippines” as among those who may be authorized to carry firearms during the said period.

In the 2013 polls, then Comelec Chairman Sixto Brillantes noted that the President was allowed to secure an exemption since it was only “logical” being the Commander-in-Chief of the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP). His name was not included in Comelec Resolution No. 9561-A as being eligible to be exempted from the election gun ban.

Aquino, a known gun enthusiast, was able to secure an exemption for his firearm used in practical shooting.

The other government officials that are eligible to secure gun ban exemptions are Vice President Jejomar Binay; Senators and Members of the House of Representatives that are not candidates; Cabinet Secretaries; Chief Justices and Justices of the Supreme Court; Justice of the Court of Appeals, Sandiganbayan, and Court of Tax Appeals; Judges of the Trial Courts; Ombudsman and Deputy Ombudsmen; Chairmen and Commissioners of the Civil Service Commission, Commission on Audit, and Commission on Human Rights; officials of the Comelec; and security personnel of Foreign Diplomatic Corps, Missions and Establishments under international law.

Likewise exempted are regular members, officers, and agents of law enforcement and/or security government agencies, namely the Philippine National Police, Armed Forces of the Philippines, National Bureau of Investigation, Bureau of Corrections, Bureau of Jail Management and Penology, Intelligence and Investigation Divisions of the Bureau of Customs, Port Police Department, Philippine Economic Zone Authority police forces;

Government Guard Units, Intelligence Division of Bureau of Immigration, Manila International Airport Authority Police Force, Mactan Cebu International Airport Authority Police Force, Law Enforcement Services of the Land Transportation Office, Philippine Coast Guard, Cebu Port Authority Police Force;

Internal Security Operations Group of the Witness Protection Program, Optical Media Board, Security Investigation and Transport Department of the Bangko Sentral ng Pilipinas, Offices of the Sergeant-At-Arms of the Senate and House of Representatives, Inspection Service of the Philippine Postal Corporation, National Police Commission, Forest Officers and Rangers of the Department of Environment and Natural Resource;

Intelligence and Security Unit of the Department of Foreign Affairs, Philippine Drug Enforcement Agency, Philippine Center for Transnational Crime, National Intelligence Coordinating Agency, Civilian Armed Forces Geographical Units, Presidential Security Group, Treasurer and Deputy Treasurers of the Bureau of Treasury;

Internal Security of the Office of the Vice President, officials of the Department of Interior and Local Government, Internal Security of the National Defense secretary, officials of the Department of Justice, Solicitor General, Investigators and Prosecutors of the Office of the Ombudsman, Chief Public Attorney, and other officers and members of departments performing law enforcement functions.

Those who are also allowed to carry guns are cashiers and disbursing officers or persons who habitually carry large sums of money or valuables; and members of private security service providers.

Considered as firearms are any handheld or portable weapon that expels bullets or missiles as well as the imitation or replica firearms, including airguns and airsoft guns.

During the election period, it is prohibited to carry firearms and deadly weapons outdoors unless there is a written authorization from the Comelec.

In addition, no person shall be allowed to employ or engage the services of security personnel and bodyguards during the election period unless authorized by the Commission.

Violations of the gun ban and employing security personnel prohibition will be held liable for committing an election offense, which carries a penalty of one to six years imprisonment, disqualification to hold public office, and removal of right to vote.

On the other hand, the poll body said that all existing authority granted to security personnel or bodyguards are also automatically revoked once the country enters the Election Period.

Those that will be allowed to retain the services of bodyguards are the President, Vice President, Senate President, Speaker of the House of Representatives, Chief Justice of the Supreme Court, Secretary of National Defense and Interior and Local Government, Comelec officials, Chief of Staff and major service commanders of the AFP, and Director General and Senior Officers of the PNP that are not candidates.

Also, the Comelec said Senator, Members of the House of Representatives, and Provincial Governors that are not candidates, Justices and Judges, and Cabinet Secretaries, would be allowed to retain the services of a maximum of two of their current security detail from law enforcement government agencies.

Incumbent public officials, whether elected or appointed; candidates in the next elections, including his/her immediate family; and private individuals may be allowed to employ the services of two private security personnel during the election period when there are threats to their life and security.

Meanwhile, the Comelec said the Committee on the Ban on Firearms and Security Personnel (CBFSP) under Commissioner Al Parreño is now accepting applications for exemptions to the gun ban and employing bodyguards or Certificates of Authority (CA). (PNA)