A senior Commission on Elections executive said that it is unlikely the poll body would impose a total gun ban for the 2013 midterm elections, even after incidents of gun-related violence made headlines.
In an interview with reporters Monday, Commissioner Rene Sarmiento said the incidents are not yet nationwide to merit a total gun ban.
Related story: Comelec sets total gunban as election heats up
Last January 2, seven-year-old Stephanie Nicole Ella died of a stray bullet which hit her during the New Year revelry. Two days later, seven people, including two children, were killed when a man believed to be under the influence of drugs and alcohol went on a shooting rampage in Kawit, Cavite.
“Hindi naman nationwide po ito eh. These are two incidents. So baka hindi pa rin ma-convince ang Comelec for a total gun ban,” Sarmiento said.
Last Sunday, 13 people, including lawmen and an environmentalist, were killed in what police said was a shootout at a checkpoint in Quezon province.
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Some relatives of the victims believe otherwise, insisting that those killed were innocent and not members of a hire-for-gun group.
In need of protection
In the same interview, Sarmiento said some public officials “holding sensitive positions” are in need of protection
“Kasi may mga public officials in need of exemptions, also... But still pag-uusapan pa namin ito kung dapat pang i-push ang total gun ban,” he said.
He said they received renewed calls for a total gun ban from groups such as the Catholic Bishops Conference of the Philippines and Kapatiran party.
“While there are those asking for exemptions, there are also those calling for total gun ban. So we have to balance these two calls. These have to be consistent with national interest,” Sarmiento said.
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For his part, Comelec spokesperson James Jimenez said the Comelec is not mandated to entirely prohibit gun ownership.
“The decision to prohibit private ownership of firearms, i.e. a total gun ban, is not for the Comelec to make… We manage elections, not guns,” Jimenez said in a text message to GMA News Online.
He added that the Comelec is following the “strict policy of ‘no personal exemptions,’” which means that only security forces are allowed to carry guns.
The Comelec gun ban starts on January 13.
According to Resolution No. 9561, “no person shall bear, carry, or transport firearms or other deadly weapons in public places," and that “no candidate for public office, including incumbent public officers seeking election to any public office, shall employ, avail himself of, or engage the services of security personnel or bodyguards."
It said that operatives of the Philippine National Police (PNP) and Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) are allowed to have guns.
Also read: Girl's death triggers gun debate in Philippines
Among the government agencies that were exempted from the gun ban for the 2013 elections but not in 2010 were the Bureau of Corrections, Bureau of Treasury, Department of Interior and Local Government, Office of the Vice President, Department of National Defense, among others.
Also added were justices of the Supreme Court, Court of Appeals, Sandiganbayan and Court of Tax Appeal; and judges of the Regional Trial Courts and Municipal/Metropolitan/Circuit trial courts.
The usual ones allowed to have guns both for the 2010 and 2013 elections are the members of the PNP and AFP, security personnel of foreign diplomatic corps, International Security Operations Group of the Witness Protection Program under the Department of Justice, security escorts of members of the House of Representatives and Senate who are not reelectionists, election officers, lawyers and directors of the Comelec, personnel of the National Bureau of Investigation, among others.
The resolution added that those who may avail bodyguards are the President, Vice President, senators who are not reelectionists, justices, judges, cabinet secretaries, chairman and commissioners of the Comelec, chief of staff of the AFP and AFP Major Service Commanders, and director generals and senior officers of the PNP. — RSJ, GMA News
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