Spare me from gun ban, Aquino asks Comelec

Paterno R. Esmaquel II

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(2nd UPDATE) Comelec rules prohibit him from carrying a gun during the election period, but the President, a gun enthusiast, applies for an exemption

PRIVATE EXEMPTION. President Benigno Aquino III, a gun enthusiast, wants the Comelec to exempt him from the gun ban. Image circa 2008; screen grab from www.youtube.com/vbsslsd

MANILA, Philippines (2nd UPDATE) – The Commission on Elections (Comelec) prohibits him from carrying a gun during the election period, but President Benigno Aquino III, a gun enthusiast, wants the Comelec to exempt him from this rule.

Aquino has filed an application to carry his gun during the election period from January 13 to June 12, Comelec Spokesperson James Jimenez confirmed Thursday, January 10.

Comelec Commissioner Elias Yusoph, in an interview with GMA News, said Aquino on Thursday morning applied to exempt his revolver.

Yusoph told GMA News he is unsure of the President’s reasons. But in a separate interview with ABS-CBN, Yusoph explained: “That’s (for) being an enthusiast, yes… I think he’s using (it) in practical shooting.”

We tried to directly get in touch with the commissioner but he has not replied to us.

Comelec Resolution No. 9561 clearly prohibits anyone – except for at least 38 groups – from carrying a gun during the election period. The President is not among the exempted.

The Comelec, however, would spare Aquino’s Presidential Security Group (PSG) from the gun ban if it applies for an exemption.

No ‘special exemptions’

The resolution, which intended to exempt more groups than in 2010, was supposed to rule out “special exemptions” from the gun ban, according to Comelec Chair Sixto Brillantes Jr. The Comelec would spare from the ban 10 more groups, including Supreme Court justices and the Cafgu, the military-run civilian militias.

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 in an interview in November 2012. (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 bother to apply.)

In the resolution, the Comelec still provided for those who face death threats. The Comelec, however, limited the exemptions to candidates and their family members within the second degree of consanguinity or affinity.

And even then, those with death threats may not apply to carry firearms. The Comelec may only assign them up to two security personnel or bodyguards.

PSG members already serve as Aquino’s bodyguards.

It is also uncertain if Aquino faces a threat to his life, but he has second-degree family members running in 2013. His cousin, Paolo Benigno Aquino IV, for example, is running for senator.

The Comelec requires proof and a filing fee of P5,000, among others, from those who claim to face death threats.

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

Aquino: No to total ban

Recent shooting incidents, which led to a 7-year-old’s death, have revived calls for a total gun ban in the Philippines, even outside the election period. (Watch more in the video below)

At stake is up to 1.6-M licensed firearms in the country, according to the PNP. 

Aquino, however, has rejected calls for a total gun ban. “Magandang headline: total gun ban. Pero knee-jerk reaction,” Aquino told reporters on Wednesday, January 9. (It’s a nice headline: Total gun ban. But it’s a knee-jerk reaction.)

(Below, watch Aquino in a shooting range, circa 2008)

The proposed total gun ban, even outside the election period, has gotten mixed reactions. – Rappler.com


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Paterno R. Esmaquel II

Paterno R. Esmaquel II is a senior multimedia reporter covering religion for Rappler. He also teaches journalism at the University of Santo Tomas. For story ideas or feedback, email pat.esmaquel@rappler.com.