MARAWI CITY (MindaNews/30 June) – The gun ban is on in preparation for the new registration of voters in the Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao (ARMM) but it will not be enforced only in the ARMM provinces of Basilan, Sulu, Tawi-tawi, Maguindanao and Lanao del Sur and the cities of Marawi and Lamitan but in non-ARMM neighbors as well.
Comelec Resolution 9479, promulgated on June 27, provides that the gun ban in connection with the new voters’ listing will be from July 1 to 31 in the ARMM and the cities of Cotabato, Zamboanga and Isabela and the provinces of Sultan Kudarat, Zamboanga del Sur, Lanao del Norte and North Cotabato.
Resolution 9479 provides the rules and regulations on the “bearing, carrying or transporting of firearms or other deadly weapons in connection with the general registration of voters in the ARMM.”
Aside from firearms, the ban also includes airguns and airsoft guns while deadly weapons include “bladed instrument, hand grenades or other explosives.”
Commissioner Armando Velasco told the Forum on Partnership Building for Lanao del Sur Electoral Reform Initiatives, a gathering of local officials and civil society representatives in Kampo Ranao last Friday, that the procedure is “almost the same as adopted during the last local elections.
Velasco said the difference is that in the past, requests for exemption was signed by the Comelec in Manila. This time, it will be decided on by the Provincial Joint Security Control Center for recommendation to the Regional Joint Security Control Center for approval.
In Maguindanao and Sultan Kudarat provinces as well as Cotabato City, the gun ban has been in force supposedly since November 24, 2009, when these areas were placed under a State of Emergency a day after the massacre of 58 persons in Ampatuan, Maguindanao. Maguindanao was placed under martial law from December 4 to 12 that same year but the State of Emergency in the three areas has not been lifted.
Despite the supposed gun ban, operatives of the Criminal Investigation and Detection Group in the ARMM on June 26 confiscated high powered firearms in a house of a policeman early evening in Barangay Semba, Datu Odin Sinsuat town.
Sr. Supt. Leo Quevedo, ARMM CIDG chief, said they received information that the firearms were shipped from Zamboanga City to Cotabato City.
Armed with a search warrant from the Regional Trial Court Branch 13 in Cotabato City, the CIDG operatives seized three Barrett sniping rifles, one M-60 machine gun, three rounds of rapid propelled grenade, a hand grenade and a cal.45 pistol and ammunition from one PO1 Taradji.
Hataman said these are initial reports. He said he is awaiting the CIDG’s final report on this “gunrunning syndicate.”
Chief Supt. Mario Avenido, regional chief of the Philippine National Police in the ARMM, reminded the mayors of ARMM’s 116 towns and two cities and governors of the five provinces during the ARMM LGU Convention on Local Governance in Davao City on June 19 of the impending gun ban in connection with the ARMM registration of voters.
A female mayor stood up to ask Local Governments Secretary Jesse Robredo about elected officials who have no security escorts but carry their own guns. “I have a gun with me,” she said.
“Ma’am, kasama ka sa gun ban. Kaya humingi ka na lang ng security,” (Ma’am, you are included in the gun ban. So you better ask for security),” Robredo replied.
After the gun ban, he added, “pwede ka na uli magdala ng baril” (you can carry your gun again).
Robredo announced on June 20 in the ARMM Forum that there will be no extension of the July 9 to 18 registration of voters.
“The voter has to adjust to the process. If you do not want to adjust, don’t register,” he said, explaining that registration of voters in areas outside the five-province, two-city ARMM will even be suspended so the voters’ registration machines (VRMs) will be brought to the ARMM. “You’re being given special treatment,” he said.
Comelec personnel from various regions in the country will also be deployed to the ARMM.
Avenido announced that 928 VRMs will be deployed by the Commission on Elections for use during the ten-day new voters’ listing in the region’s 2,490 barangays.
Robredo said clustering of precincts would be resorted to because the ratio is around 2.5 barangays to one machine. (Carolyn O. Arguillas/MindaNews)