Philippine National Police (PNP) chief, Gen. Dionardo Carlos, has called for vigilance as the 150-day nationwide election gun ban kicked off Sunday, with two reported arrested, according to the National Capital Region Police Office.
In a Super Radyo dzBB interview, NCRPO spokesperson Lt. Col. Jenny Tecson said the first incident happened in Navotas around 2:20 a.m. wherein a person was asked by law enforcers at a checkpoint to present pertinent documents and ID.
In Caloocan, another person was stopped and arrested at a checkpoint for not wearing a helmet while riding a motorcycle.
Carlos said law enforcers would be conducting checkpoint operations in strategic locations to strictly implement the gun ban from Jan. 9 to June 8 to maintain peaceful national and local elections on May 9, 2022.
“The PNP and other agencies are ready to protect all vital installations and economic key points and other places of convergence. We call on the public to be vigilant at all times to prevent unscrupulous individuals and lawless elements from taking advantage of the election season,” Carlos said in a statement Saturday night.
Meanwhile, the spokesperson of the country’s poll body said Sunday he doubted the 2022 national elections would be canceled even if the country should experience a rise in COVID-19 infections on voting day.
The question comes as the Philippines is currently experiencing a new wave of rising COVID-19 infections, suspected to be driven by the highly contagious omicron variant.
Comelec spokesman James Jimenez said while it was possible to halt the elections in specific areas where electoral board members become infected with the virus, it does not mean that the nationwide polls will be canceled or postponed.
Carlos said the PNP headquarters, thru the Directorate for Operations, had instructed Police Regional Offices to put-up joint PNP-Commission on Election-Armed Forces of the Philippines (PNP-Comelec-AFP) checkpoints to implement weapons check and other anti-criminality and police security operations, against loose firearms, deadly weapons, unauthorized security personnel, private armed groups, criminal elements and wanted persons.
Wherever necessary, he said the checkpoint might be co-located with existing Quarantine and Border Control Points in areas under Alert Level 3 or higher.
Pursuant to the Comelec Resolution 10728, the PNP has suspended the validity of all Permits to Carry Firearms Outside of Residence (PTCFOR) issued to licensed firearm holders, juridical entities, and members of government law enforcement agencies.
Under this resolution, all gun carrying privileges by virtue of PTCFOR issued by the PNP are suspended for the entire duration of the election period.
Also suspended are permits issued by the PNP to transport firearms, ammunition, explosives, public firearms display, and exhibits, as well as employment of security personnel for VIPs.
As a general rule, only bonafide police, military, and members of government law enforcement agencies in complete uniform and while on official duty are allowed to bear firearms for the entire duration of the election period.
Exemption from the Comelec-imposed firearms prohibition may be secured from the Comelec Committee on Ban on Firearms and Security Concerns.
“Let me remind firearm holders that violation of this prohibition shall be punishable with imprisonment of not less than one year but not more than six years and shall not be subject to probation, in addition, the guilty party shall suffer disqualification to hold public office and deprivation of the right of suffrage and lastly, cancellation of and/or perpetual disqualification to secure gun license/permit,” Carlos said.
He added that even with the prevailing national health emergency, the PNP in coordination with the AFP and Philippine Coast Guard would deploy sufficient forces to ensure the public that the 2022 polls will be peaceful, safe, and secure.
To clearly identify the locations of these checkpoints, each PNP-Comelec-AFP checkpoint shall have a signboard measuring three feet by four feet in height to give sufficient notice to the public as they approach.
Under the Comelec resolution, these checkpoints must have a properly labeled signage to notify the motorists of the checkpoint, must bear the name of the chief of police in the area, and should be positioned in a well-lit location that will not hamper the smooth flow of traffic and regular activities.
The police officers must also wear the prescribed uniform while conducting the checkpoint operations.
The public are reminded that they are not compelled to go out of their vehicles for physical check because the inspection is meant to proceed only through visual search.
“They will not be required to open their glove compartment, trunk and bags,” Carlos said.
In case there is defiance of suspected motorists—a reasonable ground to believe that a person has just committed or is about to commit a crime—the PNP personnel will be made to usher further search.
“Overall, no major untoward incident was recorded nationwide. We received full cooperation from the public which is a good start for us since the election period will last until June 8,” Carlos said.
Carlos admitted the checkpoints might pose some inconvenience for the motorists but this is a strategy to deter those who would attempt to carry and transport firearms while the gun ban is in effect nationwide.
Meanwhile, National Capital Region Police Office chief Maj. Gen. Vicente Danao Jr. is committed to ensuring that this year’s elections will be safe and peaceful.
“We will only require visual search on the checkpoints, and the public shall not be required to open their glove compartment, trunk and bags.
No person shall also be compelled to be subjected to a physical or body search absent any reasonable ground to believe that a person has just committed, is about to commit, or is committing a crime,” he added.
Danao reminded Metro Manila police officers of the rule on non-partisanship following the strict prohibition for them not to get involved in politics and to strictly side with what is lawful and beneficial to the country’s interest.
“We will intensify all efforts to secure the Metro by putting up a joint PNP-COMELEC-AFP checkpoints to implement weapons check and other anti-criminality and police security operations, against loose firearms, deadly weapons, unauthorized security personnel, Private Armed Groups, wanted persons, and other unlawful incidents related to the forthcoming national elections to ensure that it is peaceful and orderly,” he said.