COMELEC, PNP firm on firearms ban

GENERAL SANTOS CITY (MindaNews/7 Jan) – Election and police officials in Region 12 or Southwestern Mindanao are not keen on granting any exemption to the ban on the carrying of firearms during the upcoming election period reportedly due to volatile security condition in the region.

Lawyer Michael Abas, Commission on Elections (Comelec) Region 12 director, said they will fully implement the total gun ban as provided for under Comelec resolutions 1814 and 8714 to ensure the area’s security in the run-up to the May 10 synchronized national and local elections.
“Definitely we will not be issuing any exemption to any civilian, including the politicians,” Abas told reporters.

He said the full implementation of the Comelec resolution will mainly help law enforcers take full control of the security in the identified areas of immediate concern or hotspots during elections.

Abas said it will also control the movement of alleged private armies or armed bands that are controlled by some politicians in the region and the neighboring areas.

Region 12 covers the provinces of South Cotabato, Sultan Kudarat, Sarangani, North Cotabato and the cities of Koronadal, General Santos, Cotabato, Tacurong and Kidapawan.

In its Resolution 1814, the Comelec ordered the recall of permits of all gun-holders, including law enforcement agencies and private security groups accredited by the PNP as bodyguards for politicians.

Resolution 8714 defines the rules and regulations on who are authorized to carry firearms during the election period, and the procedures on how to avail of the services of security personnel or bodyguards during election period.

The Comelec issued the resolution in an effort to minimize election-related violence during the campaign period leading to the May 10, 2010 elections.

The resolution provided that only active members of the Philippine National Police, Armed Forces of the Philippines and other related law enforcement units and accredited security agencies would be allowed to carry firearms during the election period from January 10 to June 9.

Chief Supt. Josefino Cataluña, Region 12 police director, expressed support to the Comelec official’s declaration, saying he has already directed all police units in the region to strictly implement the provision of the firearms ban.

“We will be setting up additional checkpoints along the major highways and maintain our visibility in various key areas to discourage gun owners from violating the gun ban,” he said.

Cataluña said they will also beef up their presence in several areas in the region in response the concern raised by Abas regarding possible security problems posed by the presence of some political warlords in Region 12 and the neighboring areas.

“This is also among our major concerns because it might spill over to our area,” the police official said.

Last November 23, a group of armed men allegedly led by Datu Unsay, Maguindanao Mayor Andal Ampatuan Jr. flagged down a six-vehicle convoy carrying at least 58 members of the Mangudadatu family, their two lawyers and at least 31 accompanying journalists at a checkpoint in Ampatuan town and later massacred them in an outskirt village.

The victims were on their way then to the Comelec provincial office in Shariff Aguak, Maguindanao to file the certificate of candidacy for governor of Buluan Vice Mayor Esmael Mangudadatu. (Allen V. Estabillo / MindaNews)