Authorities vow strict gun ban in Maguindanao
Rosalinda L. Orosa (The Philippine Star) - January 9, 2013 - 4:27pm

COTABATO CITY, Philippines - Authorities will start imposing tightly in Maguindanao on Sunday the nationwide January 13 to June 12 ban on carrying of firearms, even as the area remains under “state of emergency” as an aftermath of the Nov. 23, 2009 massacre of 58 people in one of its towns by armed partisans.

President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo issued on Nov.24, 2009 Proclamation Order 1946, which placed the province under state of emergency in Maguindanao,  enabling the police and military to disarm partisan groups, including the feared private militia of the Ampatuan family that ruled the province.

Lawyer Udtog Tago, provincial election supervisor of Maguindanao, has appealed to local media entities to help educate the public about the ban on carrying of firearms the Commission on Elections is to impose from January 13 to June 12.

Major Gen. Caesar Ronnie Ordoyo, commander of the Army’s 6th Infantry Division, has vowed to strictly enforce the gun ban in Maguindanao under the supervision of Comelec.

                                  Harsh penalties

 

Tago said carrying or transporting of firearms and other deadly weapons during the election period is strictly prohibited, a measure meant to ensure safe and peaceful elections. 

Chief Supt. Alex Paul Monte Agudo, director of the Region 12 police office based in Gen. Santos City, told Catholic station dxMS here Wednesday that even security guards of private agencies employed as escorts by local officials aspiring for various elective positions will be  barred from carrying guns without written exemptions from the Comelec.

Tago said all permits to carry firearms outside residences the Philippine National Police issued shall be suspended during the election period.

The penalties for violation of the gun ban, as stated in Comelec Resolution 9651, are “harsh,” according to Tago.

“Among the penalties for violation of this resolution is imprisonment of not less than one year and not more than six years, without probation, and permanent disqualification to hold public office and deprivation of the right of suffrage,” Tago said.

Tago said they  will rely on the 6th ID and the Maguindanao provincial police office in enforcing the gun ban in all of the 36 towns in the province.

More than a dozen private armed groups were dismantled jointly by the 6th ID and the PNP-ARMM following the 2009 Maguindanao massacre, but  rumors abound about the alleged armed groups employed by big clans that  continue to stockpile weapons both as status symbol and protection from rival groups.

                           “Prosecute offenders”

The ARMM’s acting governor, Mujiv Hataman, said the region’s solicitor-general, Sahara Alia Silongan, and the regional local government secretary, lawyer Makmod Mending Jr., will help municipal and provincial police outfits build air-tight cases against gun ban violators.

Hataman said he is keen on setting a precedent that would scare gun owners from violating Comelec’s restrictions on carrying of guns during election periods.

While there is a strong culture of “love for guns” among Moro people, not a single offender in the autonomous region has been convicted for election gun ban violation since the ARMM’s inception in 1990.

“This time we will prosecute offenders to the fullest extent of law,” Hataman said.

                                Bloody politics

Maguindanao Gov. Esmael Mangudadatu, who lost a wife and several relatives in the Maguindanao massacre, said he  supports the continuation of the state of emergency in the province.

He said local government units under his ministerial control, and Senior Supt. Jaime Pido, who is the provincial police director, have been directed to enlist the help of religious and traditional Moro leaders in raising public awareness about the gun ban.

“I am for the continuation of the `state of emergency’ in Maguindanao,” Mangudadatu said.

Mangudadatu is seeking a second term under the administration’s Liberal Party. Hataman is also running as candidate of the Liberal Party for the ARMM’s gubernatorial post in the upcoming polls.

Mangudadatu’s wife, Genalyn, accompanied by relatives, two lawyers and more than 30 representatives of different local media outfits, were on their way to the provincial capitol in Shariff Aguak, Maguindanao to file his candidacy for governor during the May 2010 gubernatorial race in the province when gunmen flagged them at a remote stretch of the Cotabato-Gen.Santos City Highway in Ampatuan municipality.

The victims were herded at gunpoint into a hill about two kilometers from the spot where they were abducted, and were  mowed with assault rifles by gunmen allegedly led by then Datu Unsay Mayor Andal Ampatuan Jr., who was their clan’s supposed candidate then for governor of the province.

Several members of the Ampatuan clan, including Andal Jr., and their patriarch, Andal Sr., have been detained and are now being prosecuted in connection with the massacre.

Despite the incarceration of the Ampatuans, members of their clan continued wielding political control over about seven towns in the second district of the Maguindanao.  - John Unson
 

ALEX PAUL MONTE AGUDO AMPATUAN BAN COMELEC HATAMAN LIBERAL PARTY MAGUINDANAO MANGUDADATU TAGO
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