Comelec rejects total gun ban By AARON CUENCO Manila Bulletin August 14, 2009 The Philippine National Police (PNP) was left scrambling for another means to prevent firearms-related election violence in next year's polls after the Commission on Elections (Comelec) rejected its proposal for a total gun ban. But Director General Jesus Verzosa, PNP chief, said the Comelec decision is not a cause of disappointment on their part since there is still more time for them to come up with a new strategy aimed at curbing election-related violence using guns, most of them loose firearms. Yesterday, Verzosa revealed that he had already instructed the PNP Task Force HOPE (Honest, Orderly, Peaceful Elections) to hold a meeting with Comelec officials in order to map out general security measures for next year's polls, particularly on the issue of gun control. "We are now coordinating with the Comelec on how to set the procedure on gun control," Verzosa told reporters in an interview. PNP records revealed that 97 percent of electionrelated violence in previous polls involved loose firearms, which the PNP estimated to be already at 1.1 million as of May this year. This prompted the PNP leadership to propose for a total gun ban in next year's polls, with only soldiers, policemen and other law enforcement agencies allowed to carry firearms. But the Comelec earlier junked the PNP proposal, saying doing so would only put to risk the lives of some government officials and Very Important Persons (VIPs) such as boxing icon Manny Pacquiao, as such, could even be a violation of the Omnibus Election Code. Verzosa, however, said that all is not lost following the Comelec's decision, explaining that there are still measures to avoid violent and deadly clashes in 2010 polls such as limiting the number of security escorts of politicians to a maximum of two and the aggressive operations against private armed groups and against loose firearms through police visibility, surgical operations and the setting up of checkpoints and chokepoints across the country. "We will think of other measures to control proliferation of firearms during the 2010 election period," said Verzosa. "The PNP will abide with the decision of the Comelec and will propose other means for gun control during election period," he added. In fact, the meeting with officials of the PNP Task Force HOPE and the Comelec is aimed at soliciting the advice of the poll body as to the best gun control measures that would be implemented next year, said Verzosa. The meeting, however, is yet to be scheduled.