MANILA, Philippines—The Commission on Elections has granted more than 400 exemptions from the election gun ban, including those for the security details of former president Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo and an American general, a Comelec official said Saturday.
Election Commissioner Elias Yusoph, head of the Comelec committee on the ban on firearms and security personnel, said the agency approved 434 exemptions out of 2,064 applications it received.
Applications that were denied included that of former National Bureau of Investigation Director Magtanggol Gatdula, he said.
“We cannot please everybody…. We denied former NBI Director Gatdula’s application because he’s now a private individual. He can have a security detail but he applied for a personal exemption,” Yusoph said in an interview. “If he wants a security detail, we can approve that but (not) a personal exemption because he’s no longer connected with the government.”
Yusoph said the Comelec approved the applications of 10 foreign embassies, including one from the US Embassy for Gen. William Fraser III, head of the US Transportation Command, and for the Office of the Senior Defense Attaché-Joint United States Military Assistance Group.
Also approved were applications from the embassy of the Federal Republic of Germany and the consulate of Estonia, Yusoph said.
“We have deferred 289 applications for lack of requirements and requested the applicants to complete the requirements. We have released eight certificates of authority for diplomats but deferred two due to some requirements that are needed,” he said.
Yusoph said the Comelec also approved exemptions for the security details of Senate President Juan Ponce Enrile and Senators Antonio Trillanes IV, Lito Lapid, Loren Legarda, Francis Pangilinan and Ramon Revilla Jr., and for around 40 congressmen, including Bayan Muna party-list Representative Neri Colmenares and San Juan Representative JV Ejercito.
When asked if Arroyo, now congressional representative of Pampanga’s second district but who is under hospital confinement, applied, Yusoph said: “She has applied. It was approved.”
Yusoph said the poll body also approved the applications of more than 100 security agencies that will provide security to candidates during the election period.
“We have approved a lot of them—111 so far. We had 986 applications. There are many security agencies in the Philippines and some of them have up to 200 personnel,” he said.
Yusoph said 141 exemptions were also given to manufacturers and dealers of firearms.
“We do not stop these people from going about their business. We’ve granted 141 authorities to transport out of 334 applications,” he said.
As of February 4, Yusoph said the police had arrested 487 persons for violating the election gun ban.
“There were 431 firearms and 2,278 other deadly weapons and gun parts confiscated. So this is helping solve our problem with loose firearms,” he said.
“It has reduced the crime rate, especially in the provinces, unlike in Metro Manila where lawless elements do not recognize the gun ban. It would be better if we have a gunless society. We can only have peace if there are no (loose) firearms,” he added.
Yusoph said the Comelec would continue to evaluate applications since the gun ban will run up to June 12.