SC upholds Comelec gun ban rule for private security personnel

SC upholds Comelec gun ban rule for private security personnel

MANILA — The Supreme Court (SC) upheld the resolution issued by the Commission on Elections (Comelec) requiring private security personnel and bodyguards to seek authority from the poll body to possess and carry firearms during the election gun ban period in 2016.

In 22-page decision dated October 3, 2017 penned by Associate Justice Benjamin Caguioa, the high court denied the petition for certiorari with prohibition with prayer for the issuance of a writ of preliminary injunction/temporary restraining order for lack of merit filed by the Philippine Association of Detective and Protective Agency Operators (PADPAO).

PADPAO is an association of licensed security agencies and company security forces in Region 7 under Republic Act 54873 (RA 5487) or the Private Security Agency (PSA) Law.

PADPAO sought to declare as unconstitutional Section 2(e), Rule III of Comelec Resolution No. 10015 which provided for the rules and regulations on the ban on bearing, carrying or transporting of firearms and other deadly weapons and the employment, availment or engagement of the services of security personnel or bodyguards during the election period, more commonly referred to as the “gun ban”.

In its petition, PADPAO disputed the rule’s validity, asserting that the Comelec does not have any authority to impose rules regarding the bearing, carrying, or transporting of firearms by private security agencies.

Rule III states that members of licensed private security service providers under Republic Act 54873 or the Private Security Agency (PSA) Law, such as PADPAO, are granted authority to carry firearms provided they secure a clearance from the Comelec.

The group claimed that private security firms do not have to seek Comelec clearance as RA 5487 already grants to them and their personnel authorization to carry firearms since they are necessary equipment to practice their profession.

PADPAO also claimed that the Comelec violated the constitutional tenets of equal protection of laws and non-impairment of obligations of contracts as it impairs the contracts of its member PSAs with their respective clients.

It also accused the Comelec of contradicting itself, noting that while Section 1 of Rule III states that private security agencies are among those authorized to carry firearms, Section 2, meanwhile, requires them to apply for clearance.

It also cried foul against the PHP50 filing fee for each security personnel in application for clearance, insisting that it is exorbitant.

The Court held that the Comelec validly exercise its rule-making authority in issuing the assailed provision of Resolution No. 10015.

“The power of the Comelec to promulgate rules and regulations to enforce and implement elections laws is enshrined in the Constitution,” the Court held.

The SC also explained that RA 5487 and its implementing rules do not to prohibit other government agencies from imposing additional restrictions relating to the conduct of business by PSAs and PSSPs under special circumstances.

“The Court takes judicial notice of the fact that historically, Philippine elections have been marred by violence and unnecessary bloodshed and additional guidelines must be put in place to eliminate, or at least, lessen the threat. Whether or not the Gun Ban has been an effective deterrent is a different matter, which is beyond the Court’s domain,” the SC stressed.

The SC held that “PSAs’ contracts with their clients are not affected in any manner by the requirement of having to obtain from the Comelec written authority to bear, carry, and transport firearms outside of their residence or place of work and in public places, during election period.”

“All that PSAs must do is to secure such authority,” it held.

Likewise, the Court held that the PHP50 application fee per security guard cannot be considered to be exorbitant but a reasonable charge for the issuance of the permit to private individuals.