THE Philippine National Police headed by Director General Oscar D. Albayalde yesterday appealed to the public anew to cooperate with security forces enforcing the nationwide gun ban saying that officers are under strict orders to fully observe human rights in the conduct of the weapons checks aimed at ensuring a secure and fair national and local elections on May 13 and at the same time keep criminality on check 24/7.
Gen. Albayalde said violations of any police operational procedures in the conduct of gun checks may be immediately texted to the PNP hotline 0917-8475757 or DILG Patrol 117. “Report violations immediately as your actions may save others,” he said.
Officers manning checkpoints in the country have been reminded to read the Miranda rights on persons being accosted for violation of the Omnibus Election Code or other infraction of the law.
PNP spokesman, Senior Superintendent Bernard M. Banac, explained that they are making sure that the human rights of all persons passing through checkpoints will be protected at all times even as the police steps up the crackdown against illegal firearms, partisan armed groups and criminal gangs that may be used to disrupt the holding of the May 13 polls.
The number of gun ban violators arrested by PNP agents has risen to nearly 1,000 yesterday, more than 99 percent of them civilians found carrying firearms and other deadly weapons, the PNP said.
Citing a report from the PNP Directorate for Operations, Banac said that so far, police have also seized over 700 firearms and other deadly weapons including gun replicas, grenades, explosives, bladed weapons and assorted live ammunition.
National Capital Region Police Office chief, Director Guillermo Lorenzo T. Eleazar, said the number of gun ban violators in Metro Manila have also breached the 100 mark with more than 700 firearms and other deadly weapons seized by his men since last January 13.
“We have effectively prevented the possibility that these illegal weapons could be used as a tool to commit violence in the streets of the metropolis,” said Eleazar.
According to Banac, policemen manning the checkpoints are under instructions to fully comply with the Police Operational Procedures or POP designed to ensure the protection of human rights.
Gen. Albayalde earlier vowed a no let-up drive to account for unauthorized weapons that could be used to commit violence during the election period.
The PNP chief likewise reminded anew police officers manning gun ban checkpoints to strictly follow guidelines in the implementation of the Omnibus Election Code such as all checkpoint area must be well-lighted and with the presence of a Comelec signboard.
Eleazar said that in Metro Manila, policemen manning the checkpoints should be led by an officer with a rank of at least Inspector and that all must also observe the rule on the proper wearing of police uniforms.
“Only visual search is required at the checkpoint. No person may be subjected to a physical or body search in the absence of any reasonable ground. The public is not obliged to open their vehicles compartment, trunk or bags,” he emphasized.
“Pinapaalala ko sa ating mga kababayan na patuloy ang pagpapatupad sa umiiral na gun ban. Iwasan po natin ang pagdadala ng mga baril at iba pang armas na ipinagbabawal ng batas upang maiwasan ang mapatawan ng parusa” Eleazar said.
Persons caught for violating the gun ban especially law enforcers face penalties such as not less than one year to six years imprisonment, dishonorable discharge from the service and forfeiture of all retirement privileges and benefits. Government employees will also be disqualified from holding any public office once caught for violating the ban which will end on June 12, he said.
Gen. Albayalde said that police nationwide are under orders to accost persons who are carrying weapons including firearms in the streets without any authority from the Comelec. All Permit-to-Carry-Firearms-Outside-of-Residence issued to gunholders have been suspended since last January 13.
The PNP chief said only law enforcement agents who are in their prescribed uniform and in the actual performance of duty are allowed to carry their firearms in public and police will accost and challenge all persons in civilian clothes who will be spotted carrying weapons in public during the gun ban period.
In compliance with the government directive, Gen. Albayalde also reiterated his order for all police units to strictly comply with the PNP standard operational procedure when it comes to the conduct of checkpoints aimed at arresting criminality and the presence of loose firearms on the streets.
He said the general public must be aware of the following rules on military/police checkpoints:
Checkpoint must be well-lighted, properly identified and manned by uniformed person; Upon approach, slowdown, dim headlights and turn on cabin lights. Never step out of the vehicle.; Lock all doors. Only visual search is allowed.; Do not submit to a physical or body search. You are not obliged to open glove compartment, trunk or bags. Ordinary/Routine questions may be asked. Be courteous but firm with answers.
However, PNP officials said persons and motorists passing thru checkpoints must also assert their rights, have the presence of mind and most of all must not panic.
Banac also reminded motorists to keep their driver’s license and car registration handy and within reach and be ready to use their cell phones at any time.