By Sheila Crisostomo
The Commission on Elections (Comelec) backpedaled yesterday on its pronouncement that President Aquino is not exempted from the nationwide gun ban, which takes effect tomorrow.
“The President, as commander-in-chief, is exempted. We just did not include that in the resolution because it is presumably a given. We can’t imagine the commander-in-chief of this country would have to ask for an exemption from us,” Comelec Chairman Sixto Brillantes said in a press conference.
Earlier, Brillantes declared that no one is exempted from the ban – not even the President.
The ban on carrying firearms outside residence stays until the end of the election period on June 12.
On Thursday, the President filed for exemption for a “small firearm.” He owns several other guns. Comelec Commissioner Elias Yusoph, who heads the Committee on the Ban on Firearms and Security Personnel, confirmed that the President had formally sought to be spared from the gun restriction.
Asked why Aquino sought formal exemption, the poll chief surmised there might have been “misinterpretation of the resolution because he was not included” in the list of those not covered by the ban.
Brillantes admitted that even they were puzzled by the President’s filing for exemption.
“As far as our resolution now, it is practically the same as the resolution in 2010. I can’t imagine that we’re making so much fuss about this resolution…
There’s no issue about gun ban exemption but you (media) just make a drama out of this,” he said.
He clarified that it was Philippine National Police (PNP) chief Director General Alan Purisima who filed the application “on behalf” of the President.
“Maybe that was the interpretation – that he was not in the list so there was a need to apply and it was done by the chief of the PNP,” he maintained.
Brillantes noted that even in previous polls, presidents were “automatically” exempted from the gun ban.
He admitted it was the first time that a president formally applied for exemption. Yusoph said that by formally seeking exemption, Aquino was “leading by example.”
“He is informing the public that if you want to have personal exemption from gun ban then you should apply before the Comelec so that it could be properly evaluated by the committee,” Yusoph said.
While applications for exemptions are expected to flood the Comelec, the Parish Pastoral Council for Responsible Voting (PPCRV) said authorities should be firm in implementing the gun ban policy during the election period.
“I hope that our authorities would have the political will to carry out this gun ban, that they would enforce the gun ban and really apprehend those who violate this law,” PPCRV chair Henrietta de Villa said in an interview over the Church-run Radio Veritas.
Meanwhile, San Juan Rep. Joseph Victor “JV” Ejercito is urging the PNP to intensify its campaign against loose firearms, estimated to number more than 500,000.
“The PNP must be able to account for these loose firearms especially since the Philippines is already in the thick of preparations for the May elections,” he said.
Ejercito is running for senator in the coming elections. Ejercito, in a press statement, said his call was in response to renewed calls for tougher gun control laws following the deaths of 23 people in separate incidents barely a few days into the New Year.
In Caloocan City, seven-year-old Stephanie Nicole Ella died after being hit by a stray bullet in the head while watching fireworks on New Year’s Eve. A shooting rampage in Kawit, Cavite left eight dead on Jan. 4. A few days later, 13 people were killed in a shootout in Quezon province.
Ejercito said the government, particularly the PNP, should be able to assure Filipinos that it is capable of safeguarding their lives as well as the sanctity of the ballot.