The Commission on Elections (Comelec) en banc has amended Comelec Resolution No. 10728 to recalibrate the rules and regulations on the election gun ban.
Chairman Saidamen Pangarungan stressed that the changes aim to expedite and simplify the grant of exemptions to the ban on the bearing, carrying and transporting of firearms or other deadly weapons, as well as ammunitions and explosives and/or their components, to deserving applicant public officials.
Pangarungan added that the exemptions have been enjoyed before by qualified senior government officials in previous elections. “These officials need to feel secured in performing their duties, free from fear and pressure from others,” he said.
The changes also allow the poll body to be more responsive to security concerns in election hotspots by granting the Comelec chief the authority to place Election Areas of Concern, already approved by the Committee on the Ban on Firearms and Security Concerns (CBFSC), under Comelec control.
Since the resolution was promulgated on November 10 last year, there have been large volumes of requests regularly received by the poll body. Add to this the strict procedures followed in granting exemptions in order to comply with the IATF guidelines, and the result is a very difficult process of availing of exemptions.
With the approved amendments, the Comelec aims to provide a faster and simpler process of availing exemptions to the gun ban without sacrificing the safeguards and security measures in place.
The Comelec made the revisions pursuant to its promise of delivering a safe, accurate, free and fair elections.
The poll body chief said that he does not want any senior government official to get injured or lose his life from an armed assailant simply because he cannot defend himself with his own firearm due to the gun ban.
He also lamented that applications for exemption from the gun ban were denied by the CBFSC for some officials like Supreme Court and Court of Appeals justices, Cabinet Secretaries, Senators and Congressmen. These are very responsible officials who, because of the sensitive nature of their work need to protect themselves with their firearm, he said.
Granted exemptions from the gun ban are the following:
1. The Vice President of the Republic of the Philippines, and two (2) security detail;
2. The Senate President and the Senators of the Republic of the Philippines, and two (2) security detail;
3. The Speakers and Members of the House of Representatives, and TWO (2) security detail;
4. The Chief Justice and the Justices of the Supreme Court, and two (2) security details for each;
5. The Justices of the Court of Appeals, the Sandiganbayan, and the Court of Tax Appeals;
6. The Judges of the Regional Trial Courts and Municipal/ Metropolitan/ Circuit Trial Courts;
7. Cabinet Secretaries, Undersecretaries, Assistant Secretaries, with two (2) and one (1) security detail, respectively;
8. Ombudsman and two (2) security detail, Deputy Ombudsmen, and Investigators and Prosecutors of the Ombudsman;
9. Prosecutor General, Chief State Prosecutor, State Prosecutors, and Prosecutors mentioned under R.A. No. 10071 of the National Prosecution Service of the Department of Justice;
10. Officials, including organic agents, of the National Bureau of Investigation (NBI); and
11. Election Officers (EO), Provincial Election Supervisors (PES), and Regional Election Directors (RED) provided that they may be entitled to not more than two (2) security detail as approved by the REDs.
Provided that the above-named persons possess the valid License to Own and Possess Firearms (LTOPF), Certificate of Firearms Registration (CFR), valid Permit to Carry Firearms Outside of Residence (PTCFOR).
Provided further, that in no instance shall they carry two (2) firearms.
And provided furthermore, that these public officials shall submit to the CBFSC not later than April 19, 2022 the list of their firearms and qualified security detail.
Also, in urgent and meritorious cases, the Chairman of the Commission is authorized by the Amendment to:
1. Grant exemptions from the bearing, carrying and transporting of firearms or other deadly weapon, including issuances of Certificate of Authority to:
i. Bear, carry or transport firearms or other deadly weapons;
ii. Employ, avail or engage the services of security personnel or bodyguards; and
iii. Transport or delivery of firearms and/or its parts, ammunition and/or its components, and explosives and/or its components ; and
2. Place Election Areas of Concern under COMELEC control.
The Resolution was approved by four (4) Commissioners Pangarungan, Rey Bulay, George Garcia and Aimee Neri—a majority of the seven-member Commission. Dissenting or expressing their reservations were three (3) Commissioners–Socorro Inting, Marlon Casquejo, and Aimee Ferolino.
Pangarungan also said that he will sponsor before the Commission en banc his proposal to decentralize the grant of gun ban exemptions to the Regional Election Director, PNP Regional Director and AFP Regional Commander to deserving candidates for District and Party-list Representatives and local candidates.