By LESLIE ANN G. AQUINO
Manila, Philippines – The election period for the May 2013 midterm polls officially starts today, the Commission on Elections (Comelec) announced yesterday.
Comelec Chairman Sixto Brillantes said the start of the election period also means the start of the gun ban which will cover everyone except for institutions identified earlier by the poll body.
In the list for the 2013 exemption are those from the Internal Security from the Offices of the Vice President; Secretary of Interior and Local Government; and National Defense; State, Regional, Provincial, and City Prosecutors of the Department of Justice; Internal Security Division of the Bureau of Treasury; and agents of the Bureau of Corrections.
Others in the list provided in Comelec Resolution 9561 are members of the Philippine National Police, and the Armed Forces of the Philippines; National Bureau of Investigation; Bureau of Jail Management and Penology; Intelligence, Investigation and Customs Police Divisions of the Bureau of Customs; Philippine Ports Authority; Philippine Economic Zone Authority police forces; Government Guard Forces; Investigation, and Intelligence Divisions of the Bureau of Immigration; Manila International Airport Authority Police Force; Mactan-Cebu International Airport Authority Police Force; and Land Transportation Office Law Enforcement Service.
Also in the list are agents of the Philippine Coast Guard; Cebu Port Authority Police Force; Internal Security Operations Group of the Department of Justice Witness Protection Program; Optical Media Board; Security Investigation and Transport Department, and Cash Department of the Bangko Sentral ng Pilipinas; Offices of the Sergeant-At-Arms of the Senate and House of Representatives; Inspection Service of the Philippine Postal Corporation; members of the Comelec; National Police Commission; Forest/Park Rangers of the Department of Environment and Natural Resources; Office of the Secretary Department of Foreign Affairs; Philippine Drug Enforcement Agency; Philippine Center for Transnational Crime; National Intelligence Coordinating Agency; Presidential Security Group; and Civilian Armed Forces Geographical Units (CAFGUs).
Allowed also to carry firearms are members of privately-owned security or protective agencies; justices of the Supreme Court, Court of Appeals, Sandiganbayan, Court of Tax Appeal, and judges of the regional trial courts, and municipal trial courts; and security personnel of accredited foreign diplomatic corps and establishments.
Under the Omnibus Election Code (OEC), it is considered an election offense for any person to carry firearms outside his residence or place of business during the election period.
An election offense carries a penalty of one to six years imprisonment as well as suffer disqualification to hold public office, and deprivation of the right to vote.
Brillantes said aside from the gun ban, the transfer or movement of officers and employees in the civil service is also prohibited during the period.
“They can hire, promote but they cannot do a reshuffle. They need to seek permission from us first,” he said in an interview.
“We are keeping an eye on this because it might be used for politics,” added Brillantes.
Even the suspension of elective local officials, he said, is no longer allowed.
Other prohibited acts during the election period include the use of security personnel or bodyguards by candidates, unless authorized in writing by the Commission and organization or maintenance of reaction forces, strike forces o other similar forces.
The Comelec also stressed that the campaign period for candidates for senator as well as for partylist groups is from February 12 to May 11, 2013 while for members of the House of Representatives, and elective regional, provincial, city and municipal officials is on March 29, 2013 up to May 11, 2013.
Meanwhile, a Unity Walk and Interfaith Prayer Rally for Secure and Fair Elections (SAFE) 2013 would be held at the Quezon City Memorial Circle today to formally usher the election period.
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