THE Philippine National Police and the Armed Forces have assured that all efforts are already in place to ensure that they will go after the usual ‘guns, goons and gold’ associated with rogue politicians as the entire country prepares for the 2019 mid-term polls.
PNP chief, Director General Oscar D. Albayalde and AFP chief of staff, Gen. Carlito G. Galvez Jr. vowed to fully enforce a nationwide gun ban starting January 13 next year in line with their joint effort to ensure a peaceful and credible mid-term election.
Both likewise assured that all safeguards are in place to ensure that there will be no human rights violations to be committed by the police and the military as they enforce the ban on the unauthorized carrying of firearms and other weapons from January 13 up to June 12 next year.
The crackdown is needed as both Generals Albayalde and Galvez have identified partisan armed groups and guns-for-hire including some members of the New People’s Army as the biggest threat to the holding of a peaceful, orderly and credible poll.
“Ang nakikita namin yung political armed groups at gun-for-hire in order to eliminate the opposition. That’s why we allow security. Based on our assessment, these candidates need security lalo na yung taga-Mindanao, mga taga-Abra and other identified election watch list areas,” said Gen. Galvez when asked which group poses a major threat to the 2019 polls.
The PNP is also intensifying its conduct of the so-called ‘Oplan Katok,’ checkpoints and Oplan: Bakal in search for unregistered firearms that could be used as an instrument of violence during the election period.
Uniformed police officers have been tasked to visit the houses of gunholders with unrenewed licenses as part of Gen. Albayalde’s order for the implementation of stricter gun control measures aimed at reducing both gun-related crimes and the number of loose firearms in the country.
However, he said policemen on the ground are under instruction to fully comply with the existing police operational procedures to ensure that the human rights of gunholders will be fully protected.
Before the 2016 elections, PNP records showed there were over 1.8 million unregistered firearms in the country.
The guns include those owned by private individuals and juridical entities which include government security offices, local government units and private security agencies.
There are also an estimated 25,000 firearms currently under the possession of organized crime groups and lawless elements including the New People’s Army, the Abu Sayyaf Group and the Moro Islamic Liberation Front.
The PNP leadership has ordered ground commanders to lead the operation amid safeguards instituted to prevent the possibility they may be used to harass some individuals. Law enforcers with expired gun licenses will not be spared.
PNP-FEO records show the most number of persons with unrenewed firearms’ licenses come from the National Capital Region, Central Luzon and Calabarzon (Cavite, Batangas, Laguna, Rizal and Quezon) region.
Under the program, in case police will discover that the licensee has decided not to renew his/her firearm license/s, he or she will be asked to surrender the weapon to the police. The surrendered gun will be issued proper acknowledgement receipt by the PNP so that he/she cannot be later charged for illegal possession of firearms. Police will also be asked to see to it that the ‘confiscated’ guns and its spare parts will be itemized by their owners to prevent the possibility they may be replaced while under the custody of police stations.
Gen. Albayalde said since last August, their intensified nationwide crackdown against gun-for-hire syndicates and private armed groups have already resulted in the neutralization of 82 known guns-for-hire, 30 of them included in the PNP list and the seizure of 35 assorted firearms.
The PNP chief said they have likewise neutralized 47 Partisan Armed Group members, eight of them in the government list and confiscated 19 various high-powered firearms from the suspects.
He said focused intelligence operations are now being directed against more or less 77 active PAGS with 2,071 members believed armed with an estimated 1,582 firearms. A large majority of these active PAGs operate in the Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao.
Gen. Albayalde said this early, they have organized their Joint Peace and Security Consultative Committee to address threats to the mid-term elections next year including the penchant of the NPA to demand ‘revolutionary tax’ or Permit-to-Campaign-Fees’ from candidates venturing in their territories.