Press Release
April 18, 2010


Senate Minority Leader Aquilino Q. Pimentel, Jr. today voiced his objection to the request to exempt judges of various courts all over the country from the gun that is in force during the election period.

Pimentel also said there is no need to place Basilan under a state of emergency to counteract terrorist attacks and ensure orderly and peaceful elections. However, he said the Commission on Elections can put the island-province under its control, which means that the military and police will have to take orders from the poll body to curb election-related violence.

The Supreme Court, through Court Administrator Mydas Marquez, asked the Comelec to allow judges to carry guns outside of their residence after a Manila Regional Trial Court judge was gunned down last week.

If the Comelec will grant the request, he warned that other state agencies will likely follow suit on ground that their officials and employees are facing threats to their lives in the performance of their duties. In other words, he said this will open the floodgates for exemptions which will defeat the purpose of the gun ban.

"The Comelec gun ban should not exempt judges. If judges are exempted, why not lawyers, why not journalists, why not the wealthy, why not the dentists who pulled out the wrong teeth of their patients?" the senator from Mindanao said

Pimentel said it is the duty of the government to provide police or military protection to public functionaries who think their lives are in danger. He stressed that allowing citizens to arm themselves will only worsen the incidence of violence.

"The judges and those who need protection from criminal elements must get their security from law enforcement agencies as provided by law. Otherwise, we convert the Philippines into a caricature of the old Wild West in the United States where the fastest gun was law," he said.

"Then what happens to the poor who cannot afford to buy a gun to defend themselves? Pushed to its logical conclusion, exemptions from the gun ban creates a situation of every person for him or herself."

Pimentel said the gun ban should also apply to policemen and soldiers who are off-duty.

He also asked Malacanang, the Armed Forces of the Philippines and the Philippine National Police to inform the public on what they have done so far to implement the directive of President Gloria Macapagal Arroyo to dismantle private armies or private armed groups.

The order was issued by the President shortly after 57 innocent civilians, including 30 journalists, were massacred in Maguindanao on Nov. 30. The President created a commission to study and recommend measures on the disbanding and disarming of an estimated 130 private armies.

Pimentel said the alarming wave of election-related in various parts of the country would indicate that law enforcement agencies have fallen short of their duty to confiscate loose firearm and to dismantle private armies of political warlords.

He said this has aroused suspicion that the powers-that-be are coddling political warlords allied with them who are maintaining goons to harass and terrorize their political opponents.

Pimentel expressed alarm over the decision of the Department of Justice to drop murder charges against Zaldy Ampatuan, the suspended governor of the Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao, and his cousin, Akmad Ampatuan, former vice governor of Maguindanao, in connection with the Nov. 23 carnage.

He said that while the government prosecutors may be correct to drop the two Ampatuans from the list of accused, it would stir a storm of protest, particularly from the families of the victims and the political rivals of the Ampatuan dynasty.

"I fear that the DOJ decision would only add to the political tension in Maguindanao which may affect efforts to prevent fraud that had been the bane of every election in that trouble-prone province," Pimentel said.

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