MANILA (UPDATE) - Commission Elections (Comelec) Chairman Sixto Brillantes said gun enthusiast President Aquino is automatically exempted from the election gun ban.
Brillantes noted that among those automatically exempted from the gun ban are the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) and Philippine National Police (PNP) where Aquino is commander in chief.
Brillantes said he was surprised and could not understand why Aquino even filed an application, which was signed by the chief of the PNP, Alan Purisima.
In his speech at the start of the Comelec's conference with the AFP, PNP and Department of Education today, Brillantes said "di pa naming binibigyan ng exception si presidente, di ko maintindihan, commander in chief, 'di bibigyan ng exemption kasi exempted na."
Under the relevant laws and rules, state security forces and certain government officials are automatically exempted from the gun ban. Private individuals seeking exemptions must justify by identifying security threats that will be reviewed by the AFP and PNP.
As President, Aquino is protected by the Presidential Security Group (PSG) under the AFP.
Brillantes believes Aquino applied because he misinterpreted the Comelec resolution. This is the first time a sitting president has applied for gun ban exemption.
Bayan Secretary General Renato Reyes slammed the exemption for the president.
"Ironic that the president, the most guarded, most secured person in the land, the commander-in-chief of the AFP, is now seeking an exemption from the Comelec gun ban. This sends the wrong message to other politicians seeking similar exemptions. Surely the exemption he is seeking is not grounded on security concerns, him being already guarded by the PSG. One can only speculate then that his being a gun enthusiast is the reason for seeking an exemption. However, this does not appear to be a valid ground, Comelec says Aquino already exempted by being president. However, the mere attempt to seek exemption, the thought that he wants to be exempted, (regardless of existing privilege) is what's disturbing and sends wrong signals to other politicians," Reyes said.
Commissioner Elias Yusoph, chairman on the committee on the ban of firearms and security personnel, said Aquino's enthusiasm with guns is not the only reason why he has to carry his own firearm. Yusoph said Aquino is leading by example" and informing the public that if you want to be exempted you should apply before Comelec."
Aquino filed his application Thursday through a letter signed by PNP Chief Alan Purisima, just in time for the election gun ban's implementation starting midnight Sunday.
Yusoph noted the poll body also granted the application for exemption by a group of shooters who will compete in Australia.
Meanwhile, Yusoph said officials enumerated in Comelec rules as exempted will still have to apply for their records. Local officials are only entitled to protection from state security forces. This covers congressmen who are national officials though elected locally.
Firearms dealers and sellers, on the other hand, are allowed to transport only to their buyers' residences but the buyers cannot take these publicly without an exemption.
The AFP and PNP have a combined budget of P770M for their election security duties.