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Bets may have bodyguards for May polls — Comelec exec

The Commission on Elections (Comelec) may finally allow political candidates in the May elections who are applying for exemption from the gun ban to employ armed bodyguards provided that the number will be limited to two. The Comelec, through a resolution, said no candidates will not be allowed to employ armed security personnel during the election period unless there is threat to his her life—a move that seeks to prevent candidates from employing or maintaining private armies. The election period will start on January 13. The resolution, annexed as Resolution No. 9561, states: “During the election period, no candidate for public office, including incumbent public offices seeking election to any public office, shall employ, avail himself of or engage the services of security personnel or bodyguards, whether or not such bodyguards are regular members of the Philippine National Police, the Armed Forces of the Philippines or other law agency of the Government.” In a phone interview, Commissioner Elias Yusoph said they saw the “logic” in some politicians’ requests for bodyguards and that the Comelec may approve it. “We also see the logic and perhaps we will be allowing them already,” he said. Yusoph, who heads the poll body’s gun ban committee, noted though that Comelec will only allow two bodyguards. Yusoph said some politicians are also asking the Comelec if they can retain their security personnel, who are regular plantilla members of the Philippine National Police (PNP), instead of seeking services from a private protective agency. “There are congressmen who have members of the regular plantilla from PNP. Dati na silang may security. So they want to retain them,” he said. Yusoph said politicians may just be trusting their regular bodyguards more than a private security agency.  “They are insisting that they should be given regular policemen. Sabi nila sa protective agency raw hindi hindi nila kilala itong mga security guards. So they do not have confidence and trust [to] these people.” He added they would discuss with the police this issue during their command conference Friday with the PNP and Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) regarding the gun ban. For his part, Commissioner Lucenito Tagle said they may allow these politicians as long as their security detail will be the ones carrying the guns. “Basta ang rule lang dyan, kahit na congressman o senator, they cannot carry their own guns,” he said over the phone. In a chance interview Wednesday, Comelec chairman Sixto Brillantes Jr. said they will clarify some points in the gun ban resolution, but noted that no major amendments will be made. Yusoph confirmed this: “We’re just adding some clarifications, not an amendment… It will not affect the [gun ban].” — Marc Jayson Cayabyab/KBK, GMA News