By NITZ ARANCON and LITO RULONA
CANDIDATES are disallowed from campaigning despite the start of the election period tomorrow.
Commission on Elections regional director Renato Magbutay said the campaign period would be in effect on Feb. 12, and this would apply only to senatorial candidates and party-list groups seeking congressional seats.
This means that politicians seeking to represent districts in the Lower House, gubernatorial, mayoral and local legislative posts are prohibited from launching their campaigns next month, said Magbutay.
He said the campaign period for local candidates would begin on March 29. The campaign period for both local and national candidates, including party-list groups, would end on May 11, two days before this year’s elections.
The election period however would last until June 12.
During this period, the Comelec would enforce election rules, including a gun ban that would be in effect starting tomorrow.
The gun ban means that without the Comelec’s approval, no one can bring a licensed firearm outside his or her house.
During the period, applications for gun ban exemptions would need the green light of the Comelec and the police.
All permits to carry firearms are suspended, and exemptions would need justification.
Magbutay warned that politicians who are caught violating the gun ban risk disqualification.
Magbutay said there would be an increase in the number of checkpoints in an effort to enforce election period rules. The Comelec, he said, would enforce the laws with the help of the various police offices and military units.
“Gun ban na and kinahanglan nga mag-bantay na tanan within their AOR (areas of responsibility) para walay mga kagubot in the coming mid-term elections,” he said.
Here, Magbutay said, the police and Army would set up separate checkpoints — one for the implementation of the Mindanao martial law and the other, for the gun-ban enforcement.
The ban covers not only civilians but also the members of the Armed Forces and the National Police which are now under the operational control of the Comelec.
Based on the Comelec gun ban, police and military personnel are allowed to carry firearms only when they are on duty and in complete uniform.
“This is even stricter than martial law,” said Chief Insp. Jason Baria, police spokesman for Region 11.
Baria said police and military personnel carrying guns would be arrested if they are not in proper uniform.
“We will intensify the implementation of the gun ban,” Baria told reporters in Davao.
Capt. Jerry Lamosao, spokesman of the Army’s 10th Infantry Division, said soldiers would follow orders from the Comelec.
“Our area of concentration is different (from the police) but we have closely coordinated with the police in the election preparation,” Lamosao said.
Chief Supt. Marcelo Morales, police director for Region 11, ordered all city and provincial chiefs of police to implement “24/7” checkpoint operations across the region for the duration of the election period.
Morales reminded police officers manning the checkpoints to observe the guidelines set by the Comelec that include wearing of complete uniform and to set up checkpoints in well-lit areas to allow motorists to read signage and see the policemen on duty.
During the election period, the Comelec would enforce a number of rules, including a liquor ban on the even of the May elections and on election day.
Based on Comelec Resolution 10429, the election period would be from Jan. 13 up to June 12.
During this period, the following are also not allowed:
• alteration of territory of a police precinct or the establishment of a new precinct;
• transfer or movement of officers and employees in the civil service;
• use of security personnel/bodyguards by candidates unless authorized by the Comelec; and
• administrative suspension of elective local officials.
Magbutay however said the rules are basically the same with what Comelec enforced during last year’s barangay elections.
In Misamis Oriental, the Comelec, police, politicians and organized stakeholders such as religious organizations, academics and non-government organizations would stage a “Unity Walk, Interfaith Prayer Rally and Peace Covenant Signing.”
The activity would be held to drumbeat the significance of the elections.
The Misamis Oriental Police Provincial Office said the activity would be held at its headquarters in San Martin, Villanueva, Misamis Oriental. (with reports from PNA)