Gun ban covers Aquino, too, says ComelecBy Jocelyn R. Uy |Philippine Daily Inquirer
Shootfests and other activities that involve firing guns are prohibited once the gun ban takes effect on Jan. 13, according to the Commission on Elections (Comelec).
“While our resolution made no mention about shootfests, the wisdom and morality of it is that they are banned, they are not tolerated because the use of guns are not allowed during the election period,” Election Commissioner Rene Sarmiento said on the phone.
Comelec Resolution No. 9561 prohibits anyone from carrying firearms outside residences and in places of business unless authorized in writing by the election body.
The ban also covers airguns, airsoft guns or replicas of firearms “in whatever form that can cause an extraordinary person to believe that they are real,” according to Comelec rules.
Other deadly weapons, too
Deadly weapons such as bladed instruments, hand grenades and explosives, except pyrotechnics, are included in the ban.
Asked if the President, a gun enthusiast who won the championship trophy in a recent shooting competition with police and military officials, was exempted from the ban, Sarmiento said: “No one is above the law.”
“Even us in the Comelec, it is already a given that we cannot join or hold shootfests once the election gun ban becomes effective,” he said.
Asked what the Comelec would do if Mr. Aquino fired a gun during the ban, Sarmiento said: “Theoretically, the rule of law has to be observed. No one, no matter how mighty and powerful, is above the law.”
Talking with reporters, Comelec Chairman Sixto Brillantes said Mr. Aquino was not automatically covered by the exemption.
“We give exemption more (to) the security rather than the person himself. Which means if you are the Senate President, you won’t be given exemption but your security [will be]. That’s the rule,” Brillantes explained.
Even the Presidential Security Group does not get an automatic exemption, he said. “They would have to apply and we have to approve their application,” he said.
Brillantes also said the Comelec en banc was seriously considering making amendments to the gun ban rule if only to make them clearer.
Embassies want exemptions
Brillantes disclosed that the poll body was already swamped with queries from people about whether they were covered by the exemption.
“We are still talking about what amendments to make … but there are already about 1,000 people applying for an exemption,” he said.
A check showed that Sen. Manuel “Lito” Lapid, Public Attorneys’ Office chief Persida Acosta and Zamboanga Del Norte Rep. Seth Frederick Jalosjos were among those seeking exemption from the gun ban.
The embassies of the United States, Pakistan, Vietnam and Iraq, as well as Gambian Consul Agnes Heibonhoa also asked for exemption.
Who are exempted
Among those regularly excluded from the gun ban are members of the Philippine National Police, Armed Forces of the Philippines, National Bureau of Investigation, Bureau of Jail Management and Penology, Bureau of Customs’ intelligence, investigation and customs police divisions;
Philippine Ports Authority; Bureau of Immigration’s investigation and intelligence divisions; police forces of the Philippine Economic Zone Authority, Manila International Airport Authority and Mactan-Cebu International Airport Authority and the law enforcement service of the Land Transportation Office.
The list also included the police force of Cebu Port Authority; the internal security operations group of the Department of Justice Witness Protection Program; agents of the Philippine Coast Guard and the Optical Media Board; Bangko Sentral ng Pilipinas’ security investigation and transport department and cash department;
The Office of the Sergeant at Arms of the Senate and Congress; inspection service of the Philippine Postal Corporation; members of the Comelec; National Police Commission; forest and park rangers of the Department of Environment and Natural Resources; Office of Secretary of the Department of Foreign Affairs; Philippine Drug Enforcement Agency;
Philippine Center for Transnational Crime; Presidential Security Group; National Intelligence Coordinating Agency and the Civilian Armed Forces Geographical Units.
For this year’s elections, the Comelec also extended the exemption to the internal security Offices of the Vice President, Secretary of Interior and Local Government and National Defense; state, regional, provincial and city prosecutors of the Department of Justice, internal security division of the Bureau of Treasury and the agents of the Bureau of Corrections.