The Phillipines’ nationwide ban on firearms, issued by the authority of the Commissioner of Elections (COMELEC), came into effect on January 9 and will continue until June 8, 2022.[i]
The Philippines’ “Comprehensive Firearms and Ammunition Regulation Act” recognizes the right of “qualified citizens to self-defense through… the use of firearms.”[ii]
Pursuant to the COMELEC Resolution 10728, the Philippine National Police (PNP) has suspended the validity of all Permits to Carry Firearms Outside of Residence (PTCFOR) issued to licensed firearm holders, juridical entities, and members of government law enforcement agencies.[iii]
The ban is an attempt to prevent election-related violence, even though the 2019 Republic of the Phillipines elections were “generally peaceful” according to the Philippine National Police (PNP) and the military.[iv]
“It should be understood that only on-duty police personnel, clearly identified as members of the PNP are allowed to carry their firearms,” said PNP chief Police General Dionardo Carlos.
“Any person with firearms will be courteously asked to show a copy of a valid Certificate of Authority that exempts him/her from the gun ban. If none, then the individual can be a candidate for violating the COMELEC Rules,” Carlos added.
The penalties for violating the ban are severe:[v]
- Imprisonment from one (1) to six (6) years
- Permanent disqualification from public office and loss of right to vote
- Deportation for foreigners, but only after their prison term is served
Five people were arrested on the first day of the election gun ban, the Philippine National Police (PNP) reported.[vi]
But it’s the political backdrop that makes this civilian gun ban particularly frightening.
President Rodrigo Duterte’s government is alleged to have murdered dozens of lawyers and judges since he came to power in 2016.
Free Legal Assistance Group (FLAG) claims 61 lawyers and court staff were murdered since Duterte came to power, topping the number of lawyers murdered by all previous regimes combined.[vii]
Another 27,000 men, women and children are alleged to have been murdered by their government as part of Duterte’s “war on drugs.”
The situation is so dire that Philippines Department of Justice Secretary Menardo Guevarra said lawyers and judges should arm themselves for protection.
On March 23, 2021, the Philippine Supreme Court published a statement condemning the violence.[viii]
The Judiciary is one of the three pillars of our republican democracy, which itself hangs on a careful balance between and among governmental powers. To threaten our judges and our lawyers is no less than an assault on the Judiciary. To assault the Judiciary is to shake the very bedrock on which the rule of law stands. This cannot be allowed in a civilized society like ours. This cannot go undenounced on the Court’s watch.
This is the political environment in which civilians will be disarmed, supposedly to prevent election-related violence.
Throughout history, whenever the police and military have a monopoly on violence, bad things happen to innocent civilians.
Will that historical precedent be repeated in the Philippines?
Or will this “necessary and temporary measure” be rescinded once the elections are over?
Time will tell that tale, but this is definitely not the best time to visit the Philippines.