Election period officially starts

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Sunday, January 13, 2013


CEBU CITY -- Election season officially begins today, Sunday, with the gun ban taking effect, as well as the prohibition on the use of bodyguards unless approved by poll officials.

Provincial Election Supervisor Lionel Marco Castillano said the appointment and transfer of government personnel are also banned starting today.

On Saturday, January 19, the Commission on Elections (Comelec) will also field-test the Precinct Count Optical Scan (PCOS) machines in the cities of Cebu and Naga.

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The Comelec will test the machines’ ability to transmit election results, said Comelec-Central Visayas Director Temie Lambino.

Mock elections will be conducted in selected areas in the country on January 26. In Central Visayas, Negros Oriental was chosen by poll officials as the site of the mock polls.

In keeping with the rules, Senior Superintendent Patrocinio Comendador said he expects the four police escorts of suspended Governor Gwendolyn Garcia to return to their units today. Comendador heads the Cebu Provincial Police Office (CPPO).

In Cebu City, Senior Superintendent Mariano Natu-el Jr., officer-in-charge, said he will still deploy “area security” for Mayor Michael Rama.

“Butangan gyud dapat ilabi na kung kuyaw ang lugar nga iyang adtuan (We have to assign him some security, especially if he goes somewhere risky),” he said.

Under the new Resolution 9608, Castillano said, incumbent officials may retain their escorts from the police, Armed Forces or National Bureau of Investigation.

But they have to get Comelec’s permission and retain only two escorts, at most.

Exemption

Mayor Rama, for one, is seeking an exemption from both the gun ban and the prohibition on bodyguards. He is seeking a second term on May 13, 2013.

“There should be no total gun ban kay ang malipay ana ang mga (those who will be happy are the) lawless elements ra,” said Rama during his regular press conference last Friday.

As for his police escorts, Rama said he needs them since the election is near.

“Before, I didn’t like escorts because I want a private life. But I realized I cannot be private anymore because I have to protect the Office of the Mayor and the people who voted for me,” he said.

Rama recalled that he got police escorts as it was suggested to him by Archbishop Emeritus of Cebu Ricardo Cardinal Vidal, even when he was still a vice mayor.

The Comelec recently issued Resolution 9561, which prohibits candidates for public office, including incumbent public officials, from employing security personnel or bodyguards during the election period.

They, however, can apply for an exemption.

In the same resolution, Comelec also prohibited anyone from carrying firearms in public places.

Campaign

The resolution states that only the members of the Philippine National Police (PNP), Armed Forces of the Philippines and law enforcement agencies are exempted from the gun ban.

Also prohibited during the election season is the transfer or movement of officers and employees in the Civil Service.

Lawyer Aristotle Batuhan said he realized that his complaint against Councilor Rodrigo Abellanosa will fall under this provision, but he hopes that the Office of the President will pursue the investigation and ask for an exemption from Comelec.

While campaign materials are already strewn in many parts of Cebu, the official campaign period will start on February 12 yet for those seeking national elective posts. The local campaign period will start on March 29.

The election period will end on June 12.

Last Friday, two days before the ban on government personnel transfers or appointments, Engr. Hector Jamora was designated as the new provincial engineer, a position once held by Engr. Adolfo Quiroga.

Government officials may apply for a Comelec exemption, but this will entail numerous requirements, Castillano said.

Committee

As for the case of Governor Garcia, who is fighting an order suspending her for six months, Castillano said they are still seeking the Comelec law department’s opinion.

Garcia’s son, Pablo III or Paulo, manages the GGC Security Group. He recently traded charges with PNP regional officials following a confrontation between his mother’s supporters and the police last December 19 at the Capitol.

Before they can provide services to “important persons”, protection agencies must have a PNP accreditation and a permit from Comelec’s committee on the ban on firearms and security personnel (CBFASP), said Superintendent Rex Derilo.

In Central Visayas, only four are PNP-accredited so far: Balsa Security Agency, Password Security Agency, Nico Security Agency and AY-76 Security Agency.

These four may now apply for a CBFASP permit, added Derilo, head of the firearms and explosives section at the PNP. (JGA/PDF/DSM/OCP of Sun.Star Cebu)

Published in the Sun.Star Cebu newspaper on January 13, 2013.

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