Prelate Seeks Serious Gun Ban Campaign from PNP

All PTCs suspended, warns police to licensed gun owners
Saturday, January 9th, 2010

LEGAZPI CITY, Jan. 7 - Joel Baylon of the Diocese of Legazpi called on the PNP to conduct a more intensified campaign against loose firearms proliferating in the Bikol provinces.

Baylon urged the PNP to undertake an aggressive campaign against loose firearms in the region specifically in Masbate province where undocumented guns and high powered firearms reportedly exist in every household.

Bishop Baylon, who has been the Bishop of Masbate for 10 years, said as part of his evangelization program, he has been advocating making Masbate a gunless province.

He said "even if I am no longer the Bishop of Masbate still I will continue this mission for a gunless society."

"I have regularly included this gunless campaign in my homilies, I even asked my parishioners during sermons to raise their hands if they don't have any firearms in their homes, to my surprise no one raised their hands," Baylon said.

Baylon said he estimated that in Masbate alone, there are some 3,000 undocumented high powered firearms proliferating.

He called on the police to implement a more intensified campaign against loose firearms as the election campaign heats up leading to the May 2010 polls.

Records indicate that Masbate province is considered by authorities as a political tinder box in the region because of the presence of political armed groups and intense political rivalries among candidates.

The Bicol national police on Wednesday warned thousands of license gun handlers across the Bikol peninsula not to carry their firearms outside their respective residences following the strict implementation of the total gun ban rule imposed by the Commission on Election (Comelec) at the onset of the political campaign for the May 2010 national and local polls.

Police director Reuben Padua, Bicol police chief, directed his six police provincial directors to strictly enforce starting January 10, this year the total gun ban policy of the Comelec in preparation for the May national and local elections.

Padua said the gun ban campaign was embodied in the Comelec election guidelines designed as a security measure to avert any possible violent incident arising from the political campaign exercise.

Police Supt. Eliciar Bron, Philippine National Police (PNP) Bicol spokesman, said the gun ban would apply to all licensed gun holders wherein they would not be allowed to bring their firearms outside their residence even if they have a PTC or a "permit-to-carry" license issued by the PNP.

Bron said the PNP-issued PTC license is temporarily suspended starting on Sunday until the end of election period. Handlers of these permits are warned not to violate this order or they may face legal sanctions under the law.

Exempted from the ban are members of the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP), PNP and other law enforcement agencies deputized by the Comelec.

The guidelines, however, said that members of the AFP, PNP and other law enforcement agencies were instructed to be in their complete uniform or insignias when carrying their service firearms.

In the 2007 election, more than half of the total number of towns and cities in Bikol were recommended by the police authorities to be considered either as election area of concern or election areas of immediate concerns or simply known as election "hot spots," once intense political rivalries and the presence of communist guerrillas are reported in these places

The PNP in Bikol said of the 112 towns and cities across the region, it had recommended to the Comelec the placing of 77 towns in Bikol as election "hot spot" areas due to intense political rivalry, and the presence of communist guerrillas in such areas.

The Bicol National Police said based on historical election accounts of this figure, 66 towns or 86 percent fall under election area of immediate concern while 11 towns or 14 percent are considered as election area of concern.

The PNP pinpointed the 77 "hot spots" divided among the six Bikol provinces as follows: Camarines Sur with 20 towns; followed by Albay with 16; Camarines Norte-11; Masbate and Sorsogon with 15 each and Catanduanes with only three towns.

The Bicol National Police also reported that in the 2004 presidential and local polls, 32 pre-election related violent incidents took place in Bikol with Masbate topping the list with 21 incidents, followed by Sorsogon with 4, Albay -3; Catanduanes 2; Camarines Sur and Camarines Norte with one each.

However, during the election period on May 10, 2004, five election-related incidents occurred with Albay topping the list with four incidences of encounter, ambush, ballot snatching, failure of elections, and one (ambush) in Sorsogon. (PNA)

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