Gun ban to be imposed during new voters’ listing in ARMM

DAVAO CITY (MindaNews/21 June) — Local Government Secretary Jesse Robredo said he has worked out for a Commission on Elections (Comelec) gun ban during the general biometric registration of voters in the Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao (ARMM) next month, with a national poll watchdog already mapping out strategy to field its volunteers to ensure a nonpartisan activity in the registration centers.

But Robredo cautioned the ARMM on its plan to push for a separate general gun amnesty to generate a baseline information on the proliferation of firearms as well as to ensure that all these weapons would be registered.

Robredo told a press conference Tuesday that he had met with the Comelec on Monday night and with the officers of the Parish Pastoral Council on Responsible Voting (PPCRV) for a possible declaration of a gun ban in the ARMM provinces of  Lanao del Sur, Basilan, Sulu and Tawi-tawi and the cities of Marawi and Lamitan.

Maguindanao, a member-province of the ARMM has on ongoing gun ban as it is still under a State of Emergency following the November 23, 2009 massacre of 58 persons in Ampatuan town.

Robredo had just come from Zamboanga City for a meeting on the preparations for the July 9 to 18 registration of voters in the ARMM.

The PCCRV, he said, is mapping out strategies on how its volunteers would be fielded to prevent partisan groups from influencing the new voters’ listing.

ARMM Gov. Mujiv Hataman earlier said that he would seek the Comelec approval to have a gun ban imposed regionwide to keep at bay politicians’ private armed groups and to determine if more security forces would be deployed during the registration of voters. He said he wanted the region to have a clean slate before the holdng of the next ARMM elections on May 13 next year.

Robredo said there was a difference of more than 500,000 voters in the 2007 and 2010 list of registered voters. The National Statistical Coordination Board said there 1,692,468 registered voters as of 2010, from out of a total population of 4,120,795 as of August 2007 estimate.

The region is composed of two cities, 116 municipalities and 2,490 barangays.

During the press conference held at the Waterfront Insular Hotel Davao, Lanao del Sur Gov. Mamintal Alonto-Adiong Jr. appealed to politicians from neighboring provinces outside of the ARMM to refrain from sending their residents to be registered in the ARMM so it can clean up the voters’ list.

At the opening of the ARMM LGU Convention on Local Governance, ARMM Executive Secretary Anwar Malang announced the regional government was considering a general amnesty for all gun holders to have their firearms listed and registered.

Sought for his opinion after the press conference, Robredo said the plan of the ARMM to conduct a general gun amnesty should be coordinated with the Philippine National Police.

He expressed reservation at such plan because “the usual practice is for these people to surrender only their old firearms, not the new ones. I think the ARMM should need more time to assess this move,” he said. (MindaNews)