CEBU City Mayor Tomas Osmeña is noncommittal about heeding the election gun ban, arguing that he is entitled to possess and carry firearms under the Local Government Code.

Osmeña said yesterday that the implementation of the total gun ban by the Commission on Elections’ (Comelec) and the Philippine National Police’s (PNP) is highly questionable, and he wants the League of Cities to challenge it in court.

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But he said he is ready to give up his bodyguard anytime in compliance with the policy recalling all security details assigned to government officials and individuals when the gun ban begins on Jan. 10.

“They can get my bodyguard but they can’t get my gun. I’ve been trying to call the president of the League of Cities because this is highly questionable. The Local Government Code says the mayors and barangay captains are entitled to bear arms,” Osmeña said yesterday.

He earlier cited the Constitution but later corrected himself and said the Local Government Code allows mayors him to carry a firearm, which the Department of Interior and Local Government cannot amend.

“That’s why I think we should challenge this in court... Are they authorized to amend it? I like to get an answer because it’s very clear that the mayors are allowed to bear arms and the Code does not say subject to rules and regulations of DILG or any enabling law. It doesn’t even say that the firearm has to be licensed,” Osmeña said.

Section 455 of the Local Government Code states that among the city mayor’s powers and duties is to enforce laws and ordinance and in doing so, is “entitled to carry the necessary firearm within his territorial jurisdiction.”

Another provision states that “in the performance of his peace and order functions, the punong barangay shall be entitled to possess and carry the necessary firearm within his territorial jurisdiction, subject to appropriate rules and regulations.”

When he asked if he will continue to carry with him his firearm when the gun ban takes effect, Osmeña said: “No comment. Maybe I won’t, maybe I will. It depends on the circumstances.”

The mayor is known to carry a firearm in public. There was an attempt to ambush him in Lapu-Lapu City in 2004 and another attempt at the South Road Properties.

But other than his own security, he said is more concerned about protecting the right of the barangay captains and the mayors to carry firearms.

While he can lobby for the exemption of mayors and barangay captains, Osmeña said he will not bother because he will only be mayor until 2010.

Besides, he said, the League of Cities is in the best position to do so.

“As for the security detail, yes, I’ll give it up. Usa ra man akong bodyguard ba and he more or less acts as my assistant. He just watches my back, that’s what he does because I watch the front. I take care of myself but I don’t have eyes at the back,” Osmeña said.

The PNP released the other day the guidelines for the implementation of the total gun ban and provisions for keeping security details.

When the ban begins on Jan. 10, all security details assigned to government officials and some individuals will be revoked, and all permits to carry firearms outside residences (PTCFOR) are suspended until June 9.

However, those affected by the revocation can reapply for a security detail with the Commission on Elections (Comelec).

Comelec’s Resolution 8714 states: “During the election period, no person shall bear, carry or transport firearms or other deadly weapons in public places, including any building, street, park, private vehicle or public conveyance, even if licensed to possess or carry the same, unless authorized in writing by the Commission. The issuance of firearms licenses shall be suspended during the election period.”

There are gun ban exemptions but these will only be given to law enforcement agencies, and not to civilians.

Security guards, law enforcement agencies, PNP and the Armed Forces of the Philippines may be exempted, Provincial Election Supervisor Lionel Castillano said earlier. (LCR)