Philippines imposes 150-day gun ban to stop poll violence
MANILA, Philippines (AP) - A 150-day ban on the carrying of firearms outside residences across the Philippines began on Sunday to prevent violence that could erupt during May 13 congressional and local elections in a country awash with weapons and plagued by a history of deadly poll rivalries.
Commission on Elections Chairman Sixto Brillantes Jr. said the ban, which ends June 12, suspends all permits to carry firearms in public areas and exempts only top officials, on-duty troops and police, and people facing threats. Violators could be jailed up to six years.
Election and police officials staged a march in metropolitan Manila and inspected security checkpoints to dramatize their call for peaceful mid-term elections - an often-futile goal in a country where rivalry for power among old and new political clans has been blamed for electoral violence and fraud in past years.
In the country's worst elections-related violence, 58 people, including 32 media workers, were killed by more than 100 gunmen in a 2009 massacre blamed on a political rivalry between two powerful clans in southern Maguindanao province. The existence of private militias and more than half a million unlicensed firearms have fueled fears of violence, officials said.