‘Gun-free zone’ declared in GenSan as Tuna Fest nears

GENERAL SANTOS CITY (MindaNews/30 August)—As part of the intensified security measures for the city’s upcoming 45th charter anniversary and 15th Tuna Festival, the city government has declared anew the entire city as a “gun-free zone.”

Executive Order No. 20, issued by City Mayor Ronnel Rivera, sets the “full and intensified implementation of the firearms laws” within the city’s 26 barangays from August 27 to September 15 in connection with the scheduled festivities.

The mayor signed the order on Wednesday, August 28, and was formally released to local law enforcement units and other concerned agencies on Thursday.

This city, dubbed as the “Tuna Capital of the Philippines,” will mark its charter anniversary on September 5.

The Tuna Festival, which will run until September 9, will be capped by the “Tuna Pasiklaban Street dancing Competition” in the afternoon and the evening “Disco sa Kalye.”

Rivera said the city’s declaration as a “gun-free zone” was based on a similar move earlier made by the city council in response to the recent bomb attacks in the cities of Cagayan de Oro and Cotabato.

Citing “intelligence reports gathered and the proximity of the city to those places,” the mayor noted that the city council declared the city on August 27 “into a gun-free zone for the remaining days of the 15th Tuna Festival celebration, prohibiting therefore the carrying of firearms within the city perimeter especially in areas where the activities of the Tuna Fest is being held.”

Based on the provisions of Republic Act (RA) 7160 or the Local Government Code and RA 6975 or the Department of Interior and Local Government Act, Rivera said the city mayor, being the deputized representative of the National Police Commission, is expressly granted the general control and supervision over local police forces in the city.

He said Philippine National Police (PNP) Memorandum Circular Order No. 2010-008, which rationalizes the PNP’s policies on possession, bearing and carrying of firearms, also “encouraged local government units to declare their respective territorial jurisdictions as gun-free zones.”

With the issuance of the declaration, the mayor directed the city police and other local law enforcement units in the area to intensify the implementation of the firearms laws as set by RA 9516 and Presidential Decree 1866.

He ordered the conduct of regular and stiffer perimeter checkpoints and “lawful body search,” if the situation warrants, in places where the festivities are being held.

“In case anyone is found in possession and/or carrying firearms outside of his residence, the apprehending officer shall ask the person of his authority to possess and/or carry the same, and if found wanting of the necessary license shall be arrested immediately and accosted to the nearest police precinct for their proper prosecution in court,” the executive order said.

Rivera also ordered the city police office to ensure “consistent police visibility” within the city and specifically directed the city police director, Senior Supt. Froilan Quidilla, to assign personnel on a regular basis to all public places.

Supt. Ruel Berango, deputy city police director for operations, earlier said around 500 security personnel will be deployed in various parts of the city to secure the upcoming festivities.

He said the security team for the festivities will be composed of police personnel, elements of the Philippine Army-led Joint Task Force GenSan, members of the city government’s civil security unit and barangay tanods.

Berango said they have tightened the security inspections at the checkpoints in the four major entry and exit points of the city to avert the possible movements of saboteurs.

Aside from the checkpoints, he said that there will be mobile patrols that will do the rounds in the city as part of increasing police visibility for the duration of the festival. (Allen Estabillo/MindaNews)