EVEN if they wanted to, election commissioners could not heed calls of various sectors for early implementation of a “total” gun ban to avert election-related violence.
Commission on Elections (Comelec) spokesman James Jimenez on Thursday said the poll body’s hands are tied mainly because it does not have the authority to enforce such measure until the start of the election period on January 10.
“It’s a reiterated proposal from many years back. It’s being studied by the [Comelec] en banc. But the problem is we are not yet in the election period [and]we should not expect to see a resolution [about it from the en banc],” Jimenez said.
He was reacting to the calls by lawyer Nandy Pacheco, founder of the Gunless Society, and Ambassador Henrietta de Villa of the Church-based election watchdog Parish Pastoral Council for Responsible Voting (PPCRV).
Pacheco and de Villa had cited incidents of election-related violence, including the recent ambush-slay of Tungawan (Zamboanga-Sibugay) Mayor Randy Climaco.
Seriously injured in the attack on Climaco were Tungawan Vice Mayor Abdurauf Abison and three companions.
They were waylaid just a few hours after the two officials filed their certificates of candidacy (COC) last Monday.
PPCRV spokesman Erwin Serrano said the gun ban should be implemented during the filing of COC as it is considered as the “unofficial” start of the election period.
“The call for an early gun ban is a good idea because the election period unofficially starts during the filing of COC,” he told GMA News.
Serrano said since the filing of COC was moved to an earlier schedule when the elections shifted from manual to automated in 2010, other policies should also be adjusted based on the new calendar.
According to the Philippine National Police (PNP), there were 80 victims of election-related violence in 2013 of whom 32 were killed, three of them candidates.
In the 2013 elections, more than half of the provinces and barangay (villages) in the country were considered election “hot spots.”
Jimenez assured that the Comelec is in close coordination with the PNP, which is assessing possible election “hot spots” or “areas of concern.”
He said while the Zamboanga-Sibugay incident involved local officials, the Comelec could still not consider the incident “election-related” as authorities are still investigating.
“At first glance you might call it election-related but again you have to rule out other things first. Just because those involved were elected official does not make it election-related,” Jimenez added.
He said without elaborating that in extreme cases of election-related violence, the poll body could place the area under “Comelec control.”