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The Commission on Elections (Comelec) will set up at least one checkpoint in each of the country’s 135 cities and 1,493 municipalities at the onset of the election period next week.
On Tuesday, Comelec spokesperson James Jimenez said checkpoints will ensure the implementation of the gun ban during the election period, which will start on January 13.
“Checkpoints are necessary because they are the means by which we can check compliance with the gun ban,” Jimenez said in a text message to GMA News Online.
According to the gun ban resolution annexed as Resolution No. 9561, “no person shall bear, carry, or transport firearms or other deadly weapons in public places," and that “no candidate for public office, including incumbent public officers seeking election to any public office, shall employ, avail himself of, or engage the services of security personnel or bodyguards."
Asked if there will be increased vigilance following the shootout in Quezon province, Jimenez said the Comelec will coordinate with the Philippine National Police (PNP) and the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) for better security.
Last Sunday, 13 people, including lawmen and an environmentalist, were killed in what police said was a shootout between police and suspected members of a hire-for-gun group at a checkpoint in Quezon province. Some relatives of the victims believe otherwise, insisting that those killed were innocent.
“Checkpoints are to be clearly marked, located in well-lit areas, and manned by PNP in official uniform,” Jimenez stressed.
According to Resolution No. 9588, Comelec checkpoints will be identified with a three by four feet signboard.
Additional checkpoints may be set up at the discretion of the PNP and AFP “where circumstances warrant,” the resolution added.
The AFP and PNP personnel manning the checkpoints must be in proper uniform and not under the influence of drugs or alcohol.
According to the Omnibus Election Code, violation of the gun ban may result to one to six years imprisonment, disqualification to hold public office, and suspension of the right to vote.
Uniformed operatives of the Philippine National Police (PNP) and Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) are allowed to have guns during the election period. The Comelec has deputized the PNP and AFP to ensure safe and credible elections.
Among the government agencies that were exempted from the gun ban for the 2013 elections but not in 2010 were the Bureau of Corrections, Bureau of Treasury, Department of Interior and Local Government, Office of the Vice President, Department of National Defense, among others.
Also added were justices of the Supreme Court, Court of Appeals, Sandiganbayan and Court of Tax Appeal; and judges of the Regional Trial Courts and Municipal/Metropolitan/Circuit trial courts.
The usual ones allowed to have guns both for the 2010 and 2013 elections are the members of the PNP and AFP, security personnel of foreign diplomatic corps, International Security Operations Group of the Witness Protection Program under the Department of Justice, security escorts of members of the House of Representatives and Senate who are not reelectionists, election officers, lawyers and directors of the Comelec, personnel of the National Bureau of Investigation, among others.
The resolution added that those who may avail bodyguards are the President, Vice President, senators who are not reelectionists, justices, judges, cabinet secretaries, chairman and commissioners of the Comelec, chief of staff of the AFP and AFP Major Service Commanders, and director generals and senior officers of the PNP. — Marc Cayabyab/RSJ, GMA News