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Election period begins

Police officers in Candaba, Pampanga ready a checkpoint sign for the start of the election period today. VAL RODRIGUEZ

MANILA, Philippines - The election season officially begins today with officials reminding the public and the candidates of rules and restrictions set in place to ensure orderly and peaceful polls in May.

High on the list of things to remember is the ban on the “bearing, carrying and transporting of firearms and deadly weapons,” said Commission on Elections (Comelec) Commissioner Rene Sarmiento.

Checkpoints will be set up across the country as part of the enforcement of the gun ban.

The Comelec also announced amendments to the gun ban rule to include Vice President Jejomar Binay, Cabinet secretaries and senators not seeking re-election in the list of those exempted from the ban.

“It is not yet the start of the campaign period. During the election period, which starts from Jan. 13 and will end on June 12, there are some acts that will be prohibited,” Sarmiento said in an interview.

The Comelec also prohibits, among others, the suspension of elective local officials, transfer or movement of officers and employees, use of security personnel or bodyguards by candidates unless authorized in writing by the poll body, creation of strike forces or armed groups, and giving donations or gifts in cash or in kind by officials and candidates.

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Also not allowed are the appointment or use of special policemen, confidential agents or the like and construction of public works.

Sarmiento said any reshuffling, transfer or reassignment of civil servants should be justified before the Comelec.

“The purpose of the election period is to pave the way for a better campaign period – no electoral violence, to prevent abuses of resources or to support one’s campaign,” he added.

Comelec Chairman Sixto Brillantes said they do not expect “any major peace and order problem” in Metro Manila but stressed the situation in the provinces may be different.

“We are more concerned about the checkpoints in the provinces,” he said.

Comelec Commissioner Elias Yusoph said the poll body has earmarked some P770 million for the Philippine National Police and the Armed Forces of the Philippines to help them perform their election duties. Of the amount, P462 million will go to the PNP and the rest to the AFP.

Checkpoints set up

The AFP said it is coordinating with the PNP in the setting up of checkpoints across the country.

“Upon request of the Philippine National Police, the AFP will augment security during checkpoints. We will support the PNP in the law enforcement operations particularly in the enforcement of the gun ban,” Col. Arnulfo Marcelo Burgos Jr., AFP spokesman, said.

“We are out to account for loose firearms in compliance with the gun ban of the Comelec,” National Capital Region Police Office (NCRPO) Director Leonardo Espina said yesterday.

“The PNP, in collaboration with the Commission on Elections and other law enforcement agencies and the multi-sectoral stakeholders, will hold a ‘Unity Walk and Prayer Rally for Secure and Fair Elections (SAFE) 2013,”’ PNP spokesman Chief Superintendent Generoso Cerbo said.

Espina said policemen assigned at checkpoints are barred from searching vehicle compartments unless with permission from the vehicle owners or drivers.

Espina said his men would only confiscate firearms in plain view.

In the countryside, the PNP said New People’s Army (NPA) rebels are expected to collect “permit-to-campaign (PTC)” and “permit-to-win (PTW)” fees from candidates.

Senior Superintendent Nestor Bergonia said the NPA charges at least P5 million from a gubernatorial candidate; P500,000 from candidates for congressman, vice governor, and provincial board member; P100,000 for mayoral candidates; and P50,000 from council bets.

Meanwhile, also exempted from the gun ban under Resolution No. 9608 are the chief public attorney, chairperson and commissioners of the Commission on Human Rights, the ombudsman, deputy ombudsman and investigators and prosecutors of the Office of the Ombudsman and Solicitor General.

Others are secretaries, undersecretaries, assistant secretaries, prosecutor general, chief state prosecutor and state, regional, provincial and city prosecutors of the Department of Justice; secretary, undersecretaries, assistant secretaries and the internal security of the office of the Interior and Local Government secretary; commissioner and deputy commissioners, Law and Investigation Division and Intelligence Division of the Bureau of Immigration.

Former Lingayen-Dagupan Archbishop Oscar Cruz, for his part, said jueteng would likely proliferate in the election season. Cruz said jueteng lords often help finance the campaign of favored candidates.

“They usually make an offer to all candidates but it’s mostly municipal, city and in the province,” said Cruz.

“The money is for their election expenses. If you are a foreseen winner they will be the ones to offer so that if you win your mouth is shut. If you are not winnable, they will give you also,” he said. Earlier, Cruz said jueteng operators earn P45 million to P55 million a day. – With Jaime Laude, Evelyn Macairan, Non Alquitran

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