Photo by Val Leonardo/B. Cuaresma
We should heed the call for vigilance of National Police chief Gen. Dionardo Carlos as the 150-day nationwide election gun ban kicked off this week.
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.
We get some comforting thoughts when he said: “The PNP and other agencies are ready to protect all vital installations and economic key points and other places of convergence (and) 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 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 checkpoints 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 is 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 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 is reminded that they are not compelled to go out of their vehicles for a 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.