Thursday, June 28, 2012

COMELEC sets month-long gun ban for ARMM voter listing

THE COMMISSION on Elections (COMELEC) has imposed a month-long gun ban in July for the general registration of voters in the Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao (ARMM).

Under COMELEC Resolution 9479 that was promulgated in Wednesday and published in a newspaper yesterday, the carrying of firearms will be prohibited from July 1 to 31.  The registration is on July 9 to 18.

Aside from the ARMM provinces (Basilan, Lanao del Sur, Maguindanao, Sulu, Tawi-Tawi), the ban extends to Cotabato City, Isabela City in Basilan, Zamboanga City, as well as Sultan Kudarat, Lanao del Sur, Zamboanga del Sur and North Cotabato.

Banned arms will include airsoft guns and airguns, while deadly weapons such as bladed instruments, hand grenades and other explosives, except pyrotechnics, will also be prohibited.  Security guards are prohibited from bringing service firearms beyond the duty area.

The resolution did not provide exemptions except for police and military personnel who will provide security for the registration process and to maintain peace and order.

Issuance of firearm licenses in the covered areas are also suspended, according to the COMELEC resolution, but the processing and approval of a new license or renewal of license can still be carried out, provided that the new license and firearm will be deposited with the Firearms and Explosive Division of the Philippine National Police (PNP) until the ban lapses.

The COMELEC directive follows a recommendation by Local Government Secretary Jesse M. Robredo, who called for a 30-day gun ban in the ARMM and its neighboring provinces.

In a related development, the COMELEC yesterday suggested the creation of a special committee to address the poll concerns of private groups.

COMELEC Chairman Sixto S. Brillantes, Jr. said that talks with watchdogs such as the Parish Pastoral Council for Responsible Voting, National Movement for Free Elections, Center for People Empowerment and Governance, KONTRADAYA, Workers' Electoral Watch and Automated Election System Watch (AES Watch) should continue to improve the poll automation system, according to a COMELEC statement.  

"We want total transparency.  That's why we are actively engaging the public," Chairman Brillantes said.

AES Watch called on the COMELEC to use the security features of the precinct count optical scan (PCOS) machines that were disabled in the 2010 elections due to time constraints, while KONTRADAYA said the COMELEC should cooperate with the information technology community for next year's elections.

Officials of the COMELEC and information technology provider Smartmatic-TIM Corp. yesterday conducted tests on the units before the Senate committee on electoral reform and people's participation. - MJOC [BusinessWorld Online]

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