Challenge at checkpoints: Ensuring order while protecting rights
MANILA, Philippines - The gun ban for the 2013 elections starts Sunday, January 13. Some say it is welcome development after indiscriminate gun firing in the New Year and firearm related violence.
Voltaire Tupaz reports.
This Comelec inspection on the eve of the gun ban is a far cry from the controversial checkpoint in Atimonan, Quezon. That January 6th inspection ended in the death of 13 suspected criminals.
On camera, they are courteous, as they block cars, look into vehicles, and look for weapons -- all in about 10 seconds.
Comelec spokesman James Jimenez says police should be respectful.
JAMES JIMENEZ, COMELEC SPOKESPERSON: "Unless they see something in plain view, they are not going to be able to ask for anything more than inspection"
VOLTAIRE TUPAZ REPORTING: Based on the guidelines of the Comelec, a signboard measuring 4x3 feet with a white background identifies a checkpoint. The area should be well-lit and manned by either a police officer or soldier with a rank of at least inspector or lieutenant. They should not be under the influence of drugs or alcohol at any time.
The Constitution forbids unreasonable searches. But at checkpoints, officers make the judgment call based on their instincts and a probable cause.
ROLANDO TUMALAD, SUPT. MANILA POLICE DISTRICT: "Makikita nyo naman po yung sitwasyon kung yung isang sasakyan o isang bagay na iyong isi-search ay kelanganng i-search po.”
In the last elections, at least 2,742 firearms were confiscated and about 3,000 persons were arrested.
The 2013 elections in the Philippines can be potentially violent in at least 15 hot spots. The hot spots have one thing in common-- private armed groups.
JAMES JIMENEZ, COMELEC SPOKESPERSON: "If you don't get a PTC (permit to carry) then you don't have a gun with you. If you don't have a gun with you, you can't lose your temper and hurt somebody."
Amid growing calls for stricter gun restrictions, authorities are confronted with two challenges: ensuring peace and order during the election period while protecting civil liberties.
READ RELATED STORY: How effective are checkpoints? - Rappler.com