February 11, 2007

Gun ban to be strictly enforced
Comelec, PNP gear up for peaceful, orderly elections

WITH just three months to go before the May midterm elections, representatives of the Commission on Elections (Comelec) and the Philippine National Police (PNP) in the province met on January 30 in preparation for the synchronized polls.

Attended by election officers, chiefs of police of the 22 municipalities in Ilocos Norte as well as Laoag City, the pre-election meeting aimed to foster a better working relationship to attain peaceful and orderly elections.

Atty. Alipio S. Castillo III, Ilocos Norte provincial election supervisor, urged his fellow government workers to establish open communication in aid of transparency in government.

The Comelec officer also reminded the police of the crucial role it plays during the election period, especially in the implementation of the gun ban.

Provincial prosecutor Melecio M. Felipe, who was also present during the said meeting, pointed out that in the prosecution of suspects in the Comelec’s gun ban resolution, the enforcement agency has to be aware of the rights of the respondents and that the filing of charges, with corresponding affidavits and gathered evidences backing their claim should be made within 18 hours after the arrest or it would result in arbitrary detention, where the arresting party would be held liable.

Felipe also stressed that among the constitutional and human rights of the arrested suspect include his right to remain silent, choose a counsel to defend him and right to be released from detention once a case is not filed against him within the 18-hour period from the alleged commission of crime.

Reacting to this, P/Sr. Supt. Roman A. Felix, Ilocos Norte Police Provincial Office (INPPO) director, instructed his men to coordinate closely with their respective election officers.

“Please coordinate closely with the election officers. Please remain neutral at all times,” Felix told his men who attended the meeting.

Common issues in the said meeting were also re-echoed, including clear guidelines on the establishment of checkpoints, instructions to chiefs of police on the preliminary investigation of gun ban violators, implementation of the fair election act and the rules on local absentee voting.

The local absentee voting is meant to accommodate government officials and employees, especially members of the PNP and the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP), who are duly-registered voters and who would be re-assigned to perform election-related duties in places other that their places of registration can vote for senatorial and party-list candidates, but not for local candidates.

Those who would want to avail of the local absentee voting program should file a sworn written request to the Comelec not later than March 14, 2007.

Leilanie G. Adriano

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