By Rey Panaligan
The Supreme Court (SC) has affirmed the power of the Commission on Elections (Comelec) to issue rules and regulations to implement gun ban during election period.
In a decision written by Justice Alfredo Benjamin Caguioa, the SC upheld the validity of the Comelec regulation that the gun ban covers even members of the private security service providers (PSSPs) and private security agencies (PSAs).
It also ruled that the Comelec has authority to require a written permit — even from PSSPs and PSAs members — to bear, carry and transport firearms or dangerous weapons outside of one’s residence or place or work, or in any public place during election period.
With its decision, the SC denied for lack of merit the petition filed by Philippine Association of Detective and Protective Agency Operators (PADPAO) Region 7 Chapter which sought to declare as unconstitutional Section 2(e), Rule III of Comelec Resolution No. 10015 which provided for the rules and regulations on the gun ban during the 2016 local and national elections.
PADPAO is an association of licensed security agencies and company security forces in Region 7 under Republic Act 54873 or the Private Security Agency (PSA) Law.
It assailed in its petition Section 2 (e) of Comelec Resolution No.10015 that provides for documentary requirements for the application for authority to possess and carry firearms and deadly weapons during election period.
It claimed that the Comelec has no authority to promulgate rules regarding the bearing, carrying, or transporting of firearms by PSAs and that PSAs should not be required to secure authority since RA 5487 already grants to PSAs and their security, guards, watchmen, detectives, and security personnel the authority to possess, bear, carry and transport firearms, being necessary equipment for the conduct of its business and practice of its personnel’s profession.
It pointed out that the Comelec contradicted itself in issuing the said resolution because Section 1, Rule III of Resolution No. 10015 provides that PSSPs or PSAs may bear, carry or transport firearms or deadly weapons, but immediately thereafter, Section 2 mandates that they must apply for authority.
However, the Office of the Solicitor General (OSG) told the SC that “contrary to PADPAO’s position, the Constitution and the cited laws specifically empower the Comelec to issue rules and regulations implementing the so-called gun ban during election period.”
The OSG said “under Batas Pambansa Blg. 881 and RA 7166, it is unlawful for any person to bear, carry, or transport firearms or other deadly weapons in public places during the election period, even if otherwise licensed to do so, unless authorized in writing by the Comelec and Section 35 of RA 7166 also uses the mandatory word ‘shall’ to impose upon the Comelec its duty to issue rules and regulations to implement the law.”
It stressed that “the prohibition on carrying of firearms during the election period and the requirement of written authority from the Comelec are found in both laws, and thus, when the Comelec issued Resolution No. 10015, it was merely implementing the mandates of BP 881 and RA 7166.”
“Neither does Resolution No. 10015 violate the equal protection clause as PSAs are not singled out in the imposition of the requirement. The requirement of written authority to carry, possess, and transport firearms applies even to public officials, members of the PNP and AFP, security personnel of foreign diplomatic corps, cashiers, disbursing officers, or persons who habitually carry large sums of money, among others. The nonimpairment of contracts clause is not violated as well. Resolution No. 10015 does not prevent PSAs from performing their contractual obligations. It merely requires written authority to bear, carry and transport firearms during the election period,” the OSG added.
In its decision, the SC held that the Comelec “did not gravely abuse its discretion or exceed its jurisdiction in including PSSPs and PSAs within the ambit of those persons required to secure written authority from the Comelec to bear, carry and transport firearms and other dangerous weapons outside their place of residence, work, or within public places during the election period.”
“Wherefore, the petition for certiorari with prohibition with prayer for the issuance of a writ of preliminary injunction/temporary restraining order are denied for lack of merit. The Court upholds Section 2 (e), Rule III of Comelec Resolution No. 10015 as valid and constitutional,” the SC ruled.
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