SINCE Sunday last week, the Philippine National Police (PNP) has arrested at least 17 persons throughout Northern Mindanao for violating the Commission on Elections (Comelec) gun ban.

From January 10 to 21, 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 15 civilians, one member of PNP and one government official for possessing firearms, in direct violation of the Comelec's guideline.

Seven of those arrested civilians are from Bukidnon, four in Misamis Oriental, and one each from Cagayan de Oro, Iligan, Misamis Occidental and RPSMB.

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The arrested PNP staff is from Lanao del Norte while the government official is from Bukidnon.

At least two persons were also killed as a result of the round-up.

With the apprehension, the PNP has confiscated at least six high-powered firearms and nine low power firearms. It has also confiscated three bladed weapons and two grenades, both from Bukidnon and Misamis Oriental.

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.

Earlier, Renato A. Magbutay, director of Comelec Northern Mindanao 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, wear the agency-prescribed uniform showing clearly and legibly their name, rank and serial number. In case such are inapplicable, they must wear 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 it outside of residence through a valid mission or letter order.

PNP Northern Mindanao regional director Police Chief Superintendent Danilo T. Empedrad said all persons in civilian attire carrying firearms will be presumed unauthorized to carry and would be subjected to arrest and investigation. (Terry D.C. Betonio)