MANILA - The Commission on Elections (Comelec) on Sunday marked the start of 151-day election period for the 2016 polls with a kick-off ceremony and the implementation of a nationwide gun ban.
Government officials launched the Secure and Fair 2016 Elections (SAFE 2016) campaign with a peace walk from Rizal Park to the Commission on Elections (Comelec) office.
Joining the program were Comelec chairman Atty. Andres Bautista, Interior and Local Government Secretary Mel Sarmiento, and officials from the Army, police, government agencies and non-government organizations.
At the Comelec office in Intramuros, concerned agencies held a short program and signed an integrity pledge to ensure fair polls in May.
Bautista stressed that the poll body cannot solely bear the responsibility for the polls and thanked other government agencies for doing their part.
"Kami po ay natutuwa na katuwang namin ang ating Armed Forces, Philippine National Police, iba't ibang ahensya ng pamahalaan, lalong-lalo na ang DepEd, Department of National Defense, Department of Finance, mga local government units at ang ating civil society organizations," he said.
"Napakalaki po ng kanilang ibinibigay na tulong para masiguro ang ating iisang mithiin na magkaroon ng mapayapa at maayos na halalan sa 2016."
Government officials also lighted candles and released doves as a symbol of unity and peace.
At the stroke of midnight, the Comelec and Philippine National Police kicked off a ban on firearms, explosives and other deadly weapons, among other prohibitions.
Comelec Resolution No. 9981 has also banned the following until June 8, 2016:
* bearing, carrying or transporting firearms or other deadly weapons, unless authorized in writing by the Comelec;
* the use of security personnel or bodyguards by candidates unless authorized in writing by the Comelec;
* organization or maintenance of reaction forces, strike forces or other similar forces;
* suspension of elective local officials;
* the alteration of territory of a precinct or establishment of a new precinct; and
* the transfer or movement of officers and employees in the civil service.
Only uniformed government officers and public officials are allowed to keep their firearms.
But if they are caught carrying firearms while they are not on duty and are wearing civilian clothes, they may face one to six years of imprisonment and perpetual disqualification from public office.
Meanwhile, private individuals who will be caught with loose firearms face six to 12 years of jail time.
The PNP and Armed Forces of the Philippines installed checkpoints in at least 38 locations in Metro Manila and simultaneously began inspecting vehicles.
Security forces also vowed to prevent election-related violence and dismantle private armies. -- With reports from Robert Mano, radio dzMM; Jeck Batallones and Kevin Manalo, ABS-CBN News