GUN BAN STARTS: Imprisonment for violators, says Comelec

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ILOILO City – Today starts the five-month election period – Jan. 13 to June 12 – for the May 13, 2019 midterm elections. Thus today starts, too, the nationwide election gun ban, according to the Commission on Elections (Comelec). The gun ban seeks to prevent unlawful elements such as private armed groups and gun-for-hire groups from intimidating, injuring or killing anyone during the election season.

During this period, all licenses to carry firearms outside of residences are suspended, said Comelec Region 6 director Dennis Ausan.

Only members of the Philippine National Police, Armed Forces of the Philippines, National Bureau of Investigation and other law enforcement units will be issued written permits by the Comelec to carry firearms. But they have to be in their complete uniforms.

As provided for in Section 261 of the Omnibus Election Code, violating the gun ban is an election offense.

Violators face imprisonment “not less than one year but not more than six years,” said Ausan.

Erring uniformed personnel, on the other hand, faces dismissal from the service.

Pursuant to Comelec Resolution No. 10446, qualified persons and entities may seek exemption to the gun ban and other prohibited acts by applying for the appropriate Certificate of Authority (CA) at the Comelec through the Committee on the Ban on Firearms and Security Personnel (CBFSP).

Application forms and requirements for the issuance of a CA must be submitted to the CBFSP Office at the Comelec main office from Dec. 1, 2018 to May 29, 2019.

Unless properly covered by a CA, any permit to carry firearm/s outside one’s residence or place of business will be ineffective and without force and effect during the election period.

According to Ausan, those seeking gun ban exemption would be subjected to a threat assessment “nga indeed may danger sa life mo and you need to carry a firearm.”

Ausan also said the police would be setting up checkpoints to enforce the gun ban and maintain peace and order.

The checkpoints should be placed in well-lit areas, manned by policemen in uniform, and must have signage that bear the names and contact information of the police and election officers in charge.

In Manila, Comelec central office spokesperson James Jimenez said motorists are “under no obligation” to open car windows or compartments, noting that policemen are bound by the “plain-view doctrine” at checkpoints.

“They can look but they should not touch,” Jimenez said in a press briefing.

In this year’s midterm elections, voters will choose 12 senators, congressmen, party-list representatives, and local government officials such as mayor, vice mayor, governor, vice governor, city councilors, and municipal and provincial board members./PN

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