MANILA, Philippines – The seven-member Commission on Elections en banc gave Chairman Saidamen Pangarungan the power to unilaterally grant gun ban exemptions and place election areas under Comelec control “in urgent and meritorious cases,” although three outvoted commissioners had opposed the move.
The amendment is contained in a recalibrated version of Comelec Resolution No. 10728, which details election gun ban rules and regulations.
Pangarungan and commissioners George Garcia, Aimee Torrefranca-Neri, and Rey Bulay voted in favor of the new resolution while commissioners Socorro Inting, Marlon Casquejo, and Aimee Ferolino – either “dissented or expressed their reservations,” according to a Comelec press release.
The Chairman justified the move, promising that the power to impose Comelec control on certain areas of election concern will be “exercised sparingly.”
“For example, if there was a shooting in Lanao del Sur, and many were killed, does it mean I have to wait for another week to convene the committee on the ban on firearms and security concerns (CBFSC) to declare the area under Comelec control? That is an urgent and meritorious case,” Pangarungan said in a press conference on Monday, April 11.
“I will only exercise that power upon recommendation of the chief of the Armed Forces of the Philippines and the chief of the Philippine National Police,” he guaranteed.
Pangarungan has yet to place an area under Comelec control on his own, he noted.
Gun ban exemptions
The Comelec also moved to automatically exempt the following from the gun ban:
- Vice President
- House lawmakers
- Supreme Court justices
- justices of the Court of Appeals, Sandiganbayan, and the Court of Tax Appeals
- justices of the lower courts
- cabinet secretaries, undersecretaries, and assistant secretaries
- Ombudsman, deputy ombudsmen, and investigators and prosecutors of the Ombudsman
- prosecutor general, chief state prosecutor, state prosecutors, and prosecutor
- National Bureau of Investigation officials and organic agents
- election officers, provincial election supervisors, and regional election directors
Pangarungan said the modification on gun ban rules seeks to make sure no life will be lost from an armed assailant just because he is unable to defend himself with his own firearm due to the gun ban.
“I was cabinet secretary before. I applied for exemption in December 2021, but it was not granted. When the election period kicked off on January 9, my security detail was removed. I was going around the country on my mandate, for the anti-terrorism program of the National Commission on Muslim Filipinos,” Pangarungan also recounted in a mix of English and Filipino.
The Comelec listed the following requirements for those who are given automatic exemption from the gun ban:
- they already possess a valid license to own and possess firearms (LTOPF)
- they have a valid permit to carry firearms outside of residence (PTCFOR)
- they submit the list of firearms and qualified security detail to Comelec’s CBFSC on or before April 19
- they do not carry two firearms
The gun ban will last until June 8, the end of election period. – Rappler.com