SINCE Sunday last week, the Philippine National Police (PNP) has arrested at least nine persons throughout Northern Mindanao for violating the Commission on Elections (Comelec) gun ban.

From January 10 to 17, combined elements of the PNP's provincial and city offices in Bukidnon, Camiguin, Cagayan de Oro, Iligan, Misamis Oriental, Misamis Occidental, Lanao del Norte, and Regional Public Safety Management Battalion (RPSMB) who conducted round-ups in these areas arrested nine civilians for possessing firearms, in direct violation of the Comelec's guideline.

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Four of those arrested are from Bukidnon, two in Misamis Oriental, and one each from Cagayan de Oro, Iligan and RPSMB.

As a result of the apprehension, the PNP has confiscated at least four high-powered firearms and six low power firearms, one of which was voluntarily turned over to the police.

The PNP has also confiscated one bladed weapon in Misamis Oriental and one grenade in Bukidnon.

At least seven violation cases have already been filed by the PNP in court while four cases are still under investigation.

Under the Comelec guideline, bearing, carrying or transporting firearms or other deadly weapons during the election period, which started January 10 until June 9, is authorized only for the regular members or officers of the PNP or the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) and other law enforcement agencies of the government.

Deadly weapons include bladed instruments, hand grenades or other explosives except pyrotechnic while firearms refer to air guns, airsoft guns and their replica or imitation in whatever form that can cause an ordinary person to believe that they are real.

Comelec-Northern Mindanao director Renato A. Magbutay said the authorization also covers the members of privately-owned or operated security, investigative, protective or intelligence agencies duly authorized by the PNP who must leave and deposit their issued firearms in their respective posts when off duty.

However, he said the officers and members of the PNP and AFP must be in the regular plantilla and are receiving regular compensation for services rendered in said agencies, in the agency-prescribed uniform showing clearly and legibly their name, rank and serial number or in case such are inapplicable, their agency-issued identification (ID) card showing their name and position, which should remain visible at all times.

They must also be duly licensed to possess the firearm and carry the same outside of residence by means of a valid mission or letter order and in the actual performance of election, official duty or going to or returning from his residence, barracks or official station.

Earlier, PNP regional director Police Chief Superintendent Danilo T. Empedrad said all persons in civilian attire carrying firearms will be presumed unauthorized to carry the same and would be subjected to arrest and investigation.

He said only the regular members of the PNP and the AFP and other law enforcement agencies are authorized to bear, carry or transport firearms or other deadly weapons during the election period, on condition that they are in their agency-prescribed uniforms. (TDCB)