SC asked to allow gun ban exemption for private persons with death threats
MANILA, Philippines — A group of licensed firearm owners has asked the Supreme Court to exclude from the election period gun ban private persons facing threats to their lives and safety.
In a 45-page petition for mandamus, Eric Acosta, Nathaniel dela Paz and lawyer Rodrigo Moreno asked the high court to compel the Commission on Elections to issue gun ban exemptions to private citizens who have been issued permits to carry firearms outside residence (PTCFOR) and who comply with all administrative and documentary requirements for such exemptions.
Named respondents in the suit were the Comelec and the Philippine National Police.
The petitioners said Republic Act No. 10591 or the Comprehensive Firearms and Ammunition Act of 2013 gives PTCFOR holders “a clear legal right to carry their firearms, and not have their permits revoked or suspended except for specific instances enumerated in the law, which does not include the election gun ban.”
“It is clear that RA 10591 has amended or repealed the Omnibus Election Code and other laws relating to the bearing of firearms during elections. Hence, Comelec is required by law to exempt private citizens who are PTCFOR holders from the gun ban, in order to respect their right to carry their firearms outside their residence,” they said.
The gun ban took effect last January 10, the beginning of the election day period, which ends June 8. The ban was provided under Comelec Resolution No. 10015, adopted November last year, which cancelled all PTCFORs but granted exemptions to law enforcement personnel, private security guards and government officials.
The petitioners said the resolution did not grant any exemption to private individuals carrying PTCFORs, adding, “This despite the clear and unequivocal recognition by RA 10591 that PTCFOR holders are entitle to bear their arms because of continuing threats to their lives and security.”
Acosta, Dela Paz and Moreno are officers of the Gun Owners in Action, a group of legitimate firearm owners that advocates the right to own and carry guns.
They said they wrote Comelec last month to grant them and all PTCFOR holders exemptions, citing their right to equal protection of the law. However, the poll body’s law department denied their request, adding that they should just avail of private security detail, who would be given exemptions.
They pointed out that while the Comelec has claimed that only the police, military and law enforcers have been exempted from the gun ban, the poll body has granted exemptions even to government not engaged in actual enforcement and security work, such as judges, justices, prosecutors, the solicitor general and the chief public attorney, and all Cabinet secretaries as well as congressmen and senators not running for reelection.
“Clearly then, the Comelec exempted these people due to the threat (real or imagined) against them. But by not exempting private citizens with PTCFORs, who are deemed by RA 10591 to be facing the same threat, the Comelec is violating the constitutional right to equal protection of ordinary citizens, by giving these government officials unwarranted special treatment,” the petitioners said.
They asked the Supreme Court to issue a writ of preliminary injunction to require Comelec to immediately accept applications for exemptions and issue exemptions to private citizens with PTCFORs, considering the continue threat to them.
The petitioners have also asked the high court to issue a status quo ante order to Comelec and the PNP, so that while the case is pending, they will lift the suspension of PTCFORs provided there is a corresponding exemption from Comelec that an individual PTCFOR holder can present. SFM
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