Six days before the start of the five-month election period on Sunday, the Commission on Elections (Comelec) has ordered the installation of checkpoints in all cities and towns across the country to ensure the strict implementation of the gun ban.
The total gun ban, which takes effect from Jan. 13 to June 12, covers everyone, except those from government agencies that are given an automatic exemption by the election body.
Under the Omnibus Election Code, carrying firearms outside residences or in places of business is an election offense punishable by up to six years in prison and disqualification from holding public office and exercising suffrage.
Through Resolution No. 9588, the Comelec en banc said at least one checkpoint, to be led by a regular member of the Armed Forces of the Philippines or the Philippine National Police, must be set up for each city or town. There are 135 cities and 1,493 municipalities in the country.
“(A)dditional checkpoints may be established at the discretion of the highest ranking official of the AFP or the PNP in the city or municipality,” the resolution said.
The Comelec announcement came amid calls for stricter gun control following the carnage in Kawit, Cavite, and the death of two children from guns in New Year revelries.
In its resolution, the Comelec said the checkpoints must be set up only in areas that were well lighted. In case the designated area was poorly lit, artificial lighting must be provided.
The election body said a checkpoint must be properly labeled with signboards bearing the name and address of the election officer in the city and identifying the commanding officer or team leader of the checkpoint.
The signboards must be labeled on both sides so motorists could “clearly identify the place as a Comelec checkpoint from a reasonable distance,” the resolution said.
Military and police personnel tasked with manning the checkpoints must be in complete uniform and should not be under the influence of alcohol or drugs, it also said.
Earlier, the Comelec said it had expanded the list of personnel from government institutions allowed to carry firearms during the election period.
The new exemptions are internal security personnel in the offices of the Vice President, of the interior and local government secretary, and of the defense secretary.
Also exempted from the total gun ban are state, regional, provincial and city prosecutors of the Department of Justice, those in the internal security division of the Bureau of Treasury, and agents of the Bureau of Corrections.
These agencies mentioned in the Comelec list were not exempted from the total election gun ban during the 2010 elections.