Lawmakers in May polls exempted from gun ban
Lawmakers in May polls exempted from gun ban
Sheila Crisostomo (The Philippine Star) - January 30, 2016 - 9:00am

MANILA, Philippines – The Commission on Elections (Comelec) has amended the gun ban policy to allow incumbent senators and congressmen running in this year’s elections to carry firearms.

Comelec issued Resolution No. 10047 promulgated on Jan. 28 amending the earlier rule that incumbent senators and congressmen who are seeking any elective post in the May elections are not exempt from the gun ban.

Under the previous Resolution 10015, only lawmakers who are not candidates are allowed to carry firearms.

In making the amendment, Comelec said they took into consideration the memorandum submitted by Law Department director Maria Norina Tangaro-Casingal, who said an incumbent senator or member of the House of Representatives remains to be a high-ranking elected official and is entitled to exercise and discharge his lawful mandate for the full term of his office.

This is regardless of whether the senator or congressman had filed a certificate of candidacy (COCs) for reelection or for any other elective position, Casingal said.

Unlike appointed officials, senators and congressmen are not considered resigned from office when they filed their COCs.

The new rule, however, does not exempt local elective officials from the gun ban.

However, they could file an application to be exempt from the gun ban by providing evidence of “credible threats” that will be evaluated by the Comelec gun ban committee.

The Philippine National Police may provide security detail to a qualified candidate but subject to various conditions, like there is no protective or intelligence agency available in the area as certified by the PNP.

Comelec will also take into consideration the application for exemption of a candidate if he or she is in the region considered by the authorities as an election hotspot or other “areas of concern.”

Qualified applicants for the exemption in the gun ban include those under the Witness Protection Program of the government, Comelec said.

What about us?

Local officials under the League of Cities of the Philippines passed a resolution yesterday urging Comelec to exclude them from the gun ban.

Zamboanga City Mayor Maria Isabelle Climaco-Salazar said the Comelec should take a second look at its gun ban policy, saying they face risks during the election period.

“Mayors, especially those coming from Mindanao, also have threats to their lives. On my part, it’s the MNLF that has caused a siege in the city of Zamboanga. That’s why we passed a resolution asking the Comelec to reconsider,” Climaco said, referring to the September 2013 siege of the Moro National Liberation Front in the city.

San Carlos City, Pangasinan Mayor Julier Resuello said local chief executives should not be deprived of the chance to protect themselves against criminals.

Resuello said his father, a former mayor, was killed in 2007 so the “threats to our lives, especially during elections, are real.”

“Lawless elements can carry guns while we cannot. We cannot even protect ourselves, so we hope the Comelec will heed our call,” he added.

Comelec Chairman Andres Bautista, on the other hand, said he will discuss the issue with the other poll officials.

Bautista presented the new voting counting machines before the mayors in Tagaytay City yesterday as part of the Comelec’s campaign to educate the public about the voting system.

Absentee voting

Meanwhile, the Department of the Interior and Local Government (DILG) urged local chief executives to allow their employees and staff who will be on duty on election day to avail of the absentee voting system.

Comelec Resolution No. 1003 promulgated on Oct. 15, 2015 prescribes rules and regulations on local absentee voting for this year’s elections.

Under the resolution, government officials and employees, the police, military and the media will be allowed to vote ahead of the May 9 elections.

Absentee voters are given three days – from April 27 to 29, 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. – to vote in designated voting places for national elective posts: president, vice president, senators and party-list representatives.

“Absentee voting system cannot, however, vote for local positions like governor, mayor, vice mayor and so on,” the resolution said.

Interior and Local Government Secretary Mel Senen Sarmiento said for one to be considered as a local absentee voter, he or she should be a registered voter first.

He said applicants for local absentee voting must register with their local Comelec offices and the consolidated list of applicants should

be submitted to the Comelec not later than March 7 in order for them to be able to vote. – Cecille Suerte Felipe

ABSENTEE ACIRC BAN CECILLE SUERTE FELIPE COMELEC COMELEC CHAIRMAN ANDRES BAUTISTA COMELEC RESOLUTION NO DEPARTMENT OF THE INTERIOR AND LOCAL GOVERNMENT GUN LOCAL VOTING
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