No Suspensions, No Guns During Election Period

MANILA Philippines --- With the 120-day election period in effect starting today, the transfer or movement of officers and employees in the civil service as well as the suspension of elective officials are now prohibited, Commission on Elections (Comelec) Chairman Sixto Brillantes said yesterday.

"They can hire, promote but they cannot do a reshuffle. They need to seek permission from us first," Brillantes said.

"We are keeping an eye on these because it might be used for politics," added Brillantes.

Other prohibited acts during the election period include the use of security personnel or bodyguards by candidates, unless authorized in writing by the Comelec, and organization or maintenance of reaction forces, strike forces, or other similar forces.

Also in effect during the period is the nationwide gun ban.

The Comelec also announced that the campaign period for candidates for senator as well as for party-list groups is from February 12 to May 11, 2013, while those for members of the House of Representatives, and elective regional, provincial, city, and municipal officials is from March 29, 2013 to May 11, 2013.

The Comelec said the gun ban covers everyone, except for institutions identified earlier by the poll body.

Brillantes said that President Benigno S. Aquino III, being the Commander-in-Chief, is also exempted from the ban.

In the list for the 2013 exemption are those from the Internal Security from the Offices of the Vice President; Secretary of Interior and Local Government; and National Defense; State, Regional, Provincial, and City Prosecutors of the Department of Justice; Internal Security Division of the Bureau of Treasury; and agents of the Bureau of Corrections.

Others in the list provided in Comelec Resolution 9561 are members of the Philippine National Police, and the Armed Forces of the Philippines; National Bureau of Investigation; Bureau of Jail Management and Penology; Intelligence, Investigation and Customs Police Divisions of the Bureau of Customs; Philippine Ports Authority; Philippine Economic Zone Authority police forces; Government Guard Forces; Investigation, and Intelligence Divisions of the Bureau of Immigration; Manila International Airport Authority Police Force; Mactan-Cebu International Airport Authority Police Force; and Land Transportation Office Law Enforcement Service.

Also in the list are agents of the Philippine Coast Guard; Cebu Port Authority Police Force; Internal Security Operations Group of the Department of Justice Witness Protection Program; Optical Media Board; Security Investigation and Transport Department, and Cash 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; members of the Comelec; National Police Commission; Forest/Park Rangers of the Department of Environment and Natural Resources; Office of the Secretary Department of Foreign Affairs; Philippine Drug Enforcement Agency; Philippine Center for Transnational Crime; National Intelligence Coordinating Agency; Presidential Security Group; and Civilian Armed Forces Geographical Units (CAFGUs).

Allowed also to carry firearms are members of privately-owned security or protective agencies; justices of the Supreme Court, Court of Appeals, Sandiganbayan, Court of Tax Appeal, and judges of the regional trial courts, and municipal trial courts; and security personnel of accredited foreign diplomatic corps and establishments.

In another resolution, the poll body also gave additional gun ban exemptions to the following regular officers, members, and agents of the following agencies of the government who are actually performing law enforcement and/or security functions namely: The Bureau of Corrections (BuCor), Department of Justice, Provincial and City Jails; the Commissioner and Deputy Commissioners; (b) Law and Investigation Division and - Intelligence Division, of the Bureau of Immigration; the Secretary, Undersecretaries, Assistant Secretaries and the Internal Security of the Office of the Secretary of the Interior and Local Government; the Secretary, Undersecretaries, Assistant Secretaries, Prosecutor-General, Chief State Prosecutor, and State, Regional, Provincial and City Prosecutors; of the Department of Justice; the Solicitor-General; the Ombudsman, Deputy Ombudsman and Investigators and Prosecutors of the Office of the Ombudsman; the Chairmen and Commissioners of the Constitutional Commissions; the Chairperson and Commissioners of the Commission on Human Rights; the Chief Public Attorney; the Vice President of the Republic of the Philippines; Senators who are not running for re-election; and Cabinet Secretaries.

Under the Omnibus Election Code (OEC), it is considered an election offense for any person to carry firearms outside his residence or place of business during the election period.

An election offense carries a penalty of one to six years imprisonment as well as suffer disqualification to hold public office, and deprivation of the right to vote.

Army spokesman Maj. Harold Cabunoc said that during the implementation of the Comelec gun ban, police and military checkpoints will be established in strategic areas to implement this.

As such, he urged the public "not to be afraid of our law enforcers because they are required to follow legal procedures."

Likewise, he said, every citizen is also entitled to his constitutional rights, specifically Section 2, Article III (Searches and Seizures).

"Relax. Flash a smile. Be courteous. They are your protectors. Our uniformed servicemen are just doing their jobs. Let us support them," said the Army spokesman.

Unity Walk

Meanwhile, a Unity Walk and Interfaith Prayer Rally for Secure and Fair Elections (SAFE) 2013 will be held at the Quezon City Memorial Circle today to formally usher in the election period.

The event will be attended by Brillantes, Interior and Local Government Secretary Mar Roxas II, and PNP Chief Director General Alan Purisima.

Also expected to join the event are the National Movement for Free Elections (Namfrel), the Parish Pastoral Council for Responsible Voting (PPCRV), the Department of Education (DepEd), and the Catholic Educational Association of the Philippines (CEAP) among others.

The groups will assemble at the following venues: Comelec QC Hall Office, V. Luna Hospital, UP Diliman and DILG QC Office at 5 am before walking towards the Quezon City Circle. (With reports from Madel S. Namit and Elena L. Aben)