By Mikha Flores, VERA Files
President Aquino has asked the Commission on Elections to exempt him from the gun ban that takes effect nationwide when the election period starts on Sunday, a Comelec official said Thursday.
Elections Commissioner Elias Yusoph said Aquino, a known gun enthusiast, filed for a personal exemption Thursday morning at his office. The application covers a revolver that Aquino uses in practical shooting.
Yusoph, who heads the Committee on the Ban on Firearms and Security Personnel (CBFSP), is in charge of implementing the firearms ban. His office is swamped with applications for exemptions.
During the gun ban period, individuals are prohibited from carrying or transporting firearms outside his or her residence or place of business, including transport vehicles. Public officials are disallowed from hiring security personnel or bodyguard without Comelec’s approval.
Transport of firearms and other explosives is also subject to Comelec’s approval during the period.
Yusoph said the Comelec en banc will still discuss the President’s application.
“It’s an en banc decision. We still have to deliberate on that,” he said.
Yusoph added that Aquino, as president, doesn’t have to apply anymore for a personal exemption since he already has the Presidential Security Group (PSG) who is in charge of his security.
“He is the president of the Republic of the Philippines. He has the PSG. There’s no need for him (to apply for an exemption),” Yusoph said.
Yusoph said the gun ban provisions for 2013 is mostly patterned after the 2010 gun ban resolutions (Comelec Resolutions 8714 and 8742) but they have expanded the list of persons and agencies that will be exempted.
He said Comelec is considering adding the Solicitor General and the Ombudsman to the list of exemptions.
In Resolution 9561-A promulgated in December, the exemptions include the Philippine National Police and the Armed Forces of the Philippines; regular officers, members, and agents of government agencies who perform law enforcement and security functions; privately owned security agencies; members of the judiciary; and security personnel of foreign diplomatic corps and establishments covered by international law.
Comelec has further expanded the exemptions to include the chiefs-of-staffs of the Comelec chairman and commissioners, prosecutors of the Department Justice, Internal Security of the Offices of the Secretary of the Interior and Local Government, Secretary of the National Defense, and the Office of the Vice President.
According to Comelec Chairman Sixto Brilliantes Jr., the reason for the additional exemptions is to avoid petitions for “special” exemptions during the gun ban period.
“The most important is the exemption provision. Everybody wants to get exempted,” Brilliantes said on Nov. 26.
“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, wag ka nang mag-apply (The reason for the enumeration of exemption is to discourage those who apply for special exemption. That is what we are avoiding. If you are not included, then don’t bother to apply anymore),” he added.
However, Brillantes quickly added that the Comelec would still grant individual exemptions provided that the threats are well-established.
“Kung may threat ka sa buhay e di ipakita mo na talagang may threat ka. Ibig sabihin merong konting verifications ang allegations mo (If you are receiving threats, then show to us that the threats are true, meaning, your allegations can be verified),” he said.
The CBFSP will oversee the implementation of the gun ban during the election period. It will be headed by Comelec Commissioner Elias Yusoph. Senior officers from the PNP and the AFP will serve as members.
The CBFSP will exercise operational control over the Regional Joint Security Control Center (RJSCC) and the Provincial Joint Security Control Center (PJSCC). The Joint Security Control Centers will be responsible for the issuance of temporary security details.
The CBFSP will also be assisted by a secretariat composed of representatives from Comelec, the AFP and the PNP. A senior lawyer from the Comelec Law Department will head the secretariat.
(VERA Files is put out by veteran journalists taking a deeper look at current issues. Vera is Latin for "true.")