Exempted from gun ban: Cafgu, PSG, justices

MANILA, Philippines – The total gun ban for the 2013 elections will spare more groups than in 2010, the Commission on Elections (Comelec) said in a resolution released Monday, November 26.

The Comelec, which will implement the gun ban starting January 13, 2013, will exempt 11 more groups of law enforcers and security personnel, among others, who previously did not get exempted. But while the list of gun ban exemptions is longer than in 2010, Comelec Chair Sixto Brillantes Jr said this will allow the Comelec to more strictly implement the ban until June 12, 2013.

The new list specifies 38 groups exempted from the gun ban in 2013. Brillantes said this will discourage “special exemptions” that some groups used to skirt the total gun ban.

The reason for the enumeration of the exemption is, para hindi ka na hihingi ng special exemption. 'Yun ang ina-avoid natin. Kung wala ka diyan, huwag ka nang mag-apply,” Brillantes explained. (The reason for the enumeration of the exemption is, so that you will not need to apply for a special exemption. That is what we want to avoid. If you are not on the list, don't attempt to apply.)

No hiring guards

In Resolution No. 9561 that the Comelec promulgated on November 23, the poll body said that during the gun ban, no person should “bear, carry, or transport firearms or other deadly weapons outside his residence or place of business, and in public places.” It does not matter if the person is licensed to carry firearms, the Comelec said.

The gun ban also means no candidate for public office, including re-electionists, should hire security personnel during the January 13 to June 12 election period. Other prohibitions cover the transport of firearms and their spare parts, subject to certain conditions.

Those allowed to “bear, carry, or transport” firearms include the Philippine National Police; commissioned officers, non-commissioned officers, and enlisted personnel of the Armed Forces of the Philippines; and special agents or operatives of the PNP and AFP.

Groups that the Comelec exempted in 2013, but did not exempt in 2010, include the following: 

Threats to life

The Comelec, however, adjusts its rules for candidates and family members who face “threats to life and security.” These candidates and their immediate family within the second degree of consanguinity or affinity, said the poll body, may be assigned up to two security personnel or bodyguards.

But the Comelec Committee on the Ban on Firearms and Security “may increase the number of security details assigned to an applicant when the circumstances warrant.”

The Comelec will ensure that this exception will not be abused, Brillantes said. He said those applying for security personnel should subject themselves to “verification.”

Kung may threat ka sa buhay, eh 'di ipakita mo na talagang may threat ka. Baka lahat ng tao dito, may threat,” he explained. (If there is really a threat to your life, show that the threat indeed exists.)  

Other factors, however, could make it difficult for the Comelec to implement this total gun ban.

One of these is the proliferation of private armed groups maintained by politicians. Rappler has obtained maps that show 86 PAGs, among those monitored by the police, exist in 30 provinces. (See infographic below)

In 2010, another problem was the selling of fake certificates of exemption from the gun ban. The Comelec in previous elections allowed interested individuals to apply for an exemption from the gun ban. – Rappler.com

Paterno R. Esmaquel II

Paterno R. Esmaquel II, news editor of Rappler, specializes in covering religion and foreign affairs. He obtained his MA Journalism degree from Ateneo and later finished MSc Asian Studies (Religions in Plural Societies) at RSIS, Singapore. For story ideas or feedback, email him at pat.esmaquel@rappler.com.