PHILIPPINE National Police chief, Director General Ricardo C. Marquez is making sure that the more than 4,000 gun ban violators arrested by the police across the country since January 10 would be prosecuted and have sleepless nights in jail.
With the presidential and national elections over last Monday, the PNP chief has ordered his men to ensure the prosecution and conviction of all arrested violators of the Omnibus Election Code specifically the gun ban offenders.
The PNP chief directed all concerned PNP offices and units to closely monitor investigation and case build-up operations on all cases involving violation of election laws, including persons arrested for election-related violence and violation of the nationwide gun ban imposed by the Commission on Elections.
The PNP leadership stressed that all arrests to be made during the election period, at the very least, must result in successful prosecution leading to the conviction of the offender, otherwise, all their efforts will be irrelevant.
As of yesterday, the number of gun ban offenders in the country arrested by the police since January 10 has been pegged at more than 4,200 as Gen. Marquez ordered a stepped-up campaign to seize weapons that could be used as an instrument to commit violence during the polling period, said PNP spokesman, Chief Superintendent Wilben M. Mayor said.
Mayor said the persons arrested for violating the prohibition on the unauthorized carrying of firearms and other deadly weapons in the streets include nearly 4,000 civilians, over 30 members of the PNP, 18 personnel of the Armed Forces, two members of the Bureau of Fire Protection, 10 members of Partisan Armed Groups, seven members of other Law Enforcement Agencies, three members of the Citizens Armed Forces Geographical Unit, 22 members of various threat groups, 49 security guards and 27 government/elected officials.
Gen. Marquez said the PNP’s job did not stop after the conduct of the elections last Monday and maintained that the PNP is not lowering its guard just yet. He said all PNP election security measures will be similarly implemented in the succeeding days and weeks until the official culmination of the election period on June 9.
He also called for the successful prosecution of the gun ban violators in the wake of calls for the PNP to strictly prosecute the offenders and see to it that they will have a certainty of punishment, otherwise, the public will look at the entire gun ban exercise as a farce.
Violation of the gun ban carries an imprisonment of not less than one year but not more than six years and shall not be subject to probation. In addition, the guilty party shall be sentenced to suffer permanent disqualification to hold public office and deprivation of the right of suffrage. If he is a foreigner, he shall be deported which shall be enforced after the prison term has been served.
This is without prejudice to the cancellation by the PNP chief of the violator’s firearms license and permit to carry firearm outside residence if any, and the perpetual revocation of the privilege to secure similar license or permit in the future.
For government employees, perpetual disqualification to possess government owned and issued firearms shall be imposed upon them. Further, the same is without prejudice to the filing of the proper criminal and/or administrative charges.
Any public officer who falsely certify under oath that the persons named in the roster are in the regular plantilla of the Agency, performing law enforcement functions and are receiving regular compensation for the services rendered in the said agency and that the firearms described are duly registered firearms shall be criminally and administratively charged.
Gen. Marquez said the arrested gun ban violators must be made accountable for their actions, especially those who were arrested for involvement in election-related violent incidents, including members of Partisan Armed Groups and political followers engaged in vote-buying and election fraud.
Mayor said that since January 10, police have also confiscated over 3,400 various firearms, nearly 35,000 other deadly weapons and around 34,000 different live ammunition. Last year, police seized 11,711 loose firearms and arrested 8,736 persons who are now facing charges for violation of Republic Act 10591 or the Comprehensive Firearms and Ammunition Regulations Act of 2013.
From January to May 1 this year, police have already accounted for 8,983 loose firearms and arrested 4,522 persons. A total of 2,640 criminal cases have been filed against the suspects, said Mayor.
Mayor added that police have also intensified their effort to neutralize 82 activate PAGs in the country, 75 of which or approximately 91.5 percent are based in Mindanao.
The PNP has identified the provinces of Pangasinan, Masbate, Negros Oriental, Western Samar, Maguindanao, Lanao del Sur, Abra, Nueva Ecija and Lanao del Norte as ‘election watchlist areas’ or EWAs.
Mayor said that since January 10, police have also recorded 131 violent incidents nationwide, 26 of which were validated as Election-Related Incidents while 60 are non-ERIs. Police are still investigating 45 suspected ERIs during the period.
The figure, however, is much lower compared to the following: 178 during the 2007 mid-term election period or from January 14 to June 13, 2007; 166 recorded cases during the May 10, 2010 election period which run from January 10 to June 9, 2010; and 109 during the May 13, 2013 mid-term election from January 13 to June 12, 2013.