MANILA -- A nationwide gun ban will take effect as the Philippines’ colorful — and often violent — election season kicks off Sunday, 4 months ahead of the midterm polls.
The Commission on Elections (Comelec) will put up checkpoints to enforce a strict ban on “bearing, carrying or transporting of firearms and other deadly weapons.”
But they should be placed in well-lit areas, manned by policemen in uniform, and include names and contact information of the police and election officers in charge, spokesman James Jimenez told reporters Friday.
Motorists are “under no obligation” to open car windows or compartments, he said, noting that policemen were bound by the “plain-view doctrine.”
“They can look but they should not touch,” he said in a press briefing.
Jimenez said the ban would cover other deadly weapons, including sickles and bolos often used as farming tools, if carried outside of work.
The Comelec grants exemptions, particularly to government officials, and individuals whose lives are in danger as determined by the police or the military, he said.
Candidates are also barred from using security personnel or bodyguards, unless allowed by the Comelec.
Organizing or maintaining so-called reaction or strike forces is also prohibited during the election period, which runs from Jan. 13 to June 12, 2019.
The Philippine National Police is monitoring at least 18 election “hot spots” nationwide, given their history of violence or the presence of private armed groups.
Jimenez said the Comelec had yet to decide whether to place Daraga town in Albay under its direct control, following the murder of mayoral candidate Rodel Batocabe.
Jimenez acknowledged that more and more candidates were expected to be more visible because the start of the election period was considered “the official start of the election fever.”
“A lot of politicians will start taking advantage of this particular time, if they haven’t already been doing so,” he said.
“But to clarify, it’s still premature campaigning.”
Candidates were reminded that the campaign period would not start until Feb. 12 for senatorial aspirants, and March 30 for those running for local posts.
Days before the campaign period, the Comelec will issue notices to candidates to take down campaign posters “regardless of the size and location,” Jimenez said.
“Just a stern warning to all the candidates,” he said. “Let's start the campaign period with a relatively clean environment.”