By MAR S ARGUELLES
LEGAZPI CITY: The National Police Commission (Napolcom) in Bicol is closely checking the effectiveness of various PNP-Comelec checkpoints set up in towns and cities in the region, a Comelec official said the other day.
Ricardo Fontanilla, Napolcom Bicol spokesperson, said his office is currently conducting a thorough assessment of the implementation of the checkpoints following reports that glitches were experienced due to strict guidelines stipulated in the Commission on Elections resolution.
The Napolcom and the PNP are one in saying that the strict Comelec guidelines have somehow hampered the gun ban campaign.
According to Police Supt. Renato Bataller, PNP Bicol spokesperson, the police checkpoint drive had so far achieved a “Zero” mark in its gun ban campaign despite the close to 200 hundred checkpoints already set up in various towns and cities in the six provinces of Bicol.
Bataller in a phone interview said the poor performance may be attributed to the “plain view” search being adopted on vehicles at checkpoints, which actually weakens the enforcement of the election gun ban.
Under the Plain View Doctrine, police officers at checkpoint may only view from outside the vehicle the passengers’ baggages inside the car, with the exception of an approaching vehicle loaded with illegal items based on intelligence report.
Bataller said another factor that undermines the ban against weapons and other firearms are the strong media campaign on “dos and don’ts” during police checkpoints.
“The role of the media greatly influences the public about their rights not to be searched including their vehicles during checkpoints,” he added.
Fontanilla said that the initial assessment on the operation of checkpoints put up in Bicol proves that these checkpoints do not really serve its purpose.
Rather, it only creates a traffic situation that inconveniences the passing motorists.
Fontanilla pointed out several lapses in the search procedures, because of operational guidelines stipulated in Comelec resolution regarding checkpoints for the duration of the 2013 mid-term election campaign.
“Hanggang patingin tingin, pa silip-silip na lang ang mga pulis, which makes them even more prone to attacks by well-armed lawless elements,” he said.
So far since it became effective on January 13, 2013, the gun ban campaign in Bicol has yielded only 23 assorted firearms and 23 persons who were arrested not at checkpoints but on strength of search warrants issued against suspected gun holders, Bataller said.
The gun ban will become effective until June 13, 2013 to prevent election-related violence during the election period.
All permits to carry firearms outside residence are suspended during the gun ban period.
Only security personnel with Comelec gun ban exemptions are allowed to carry firearms.
Carrying, bearing, and transporting of firearms, ammunition and deadly weapons within the election period are punishable with one to six years imprisonment.
The ten (10) checkpoint rules as outlined in DOJ Advisory on Checkpoints are anchored on the constitutional guarantee against unreasonable searches and seizures (Section 2, Article III). These are:
1. Checkpoint must be well-lighted, properly identified and manned by uniformed personnel.
2. Upon approach, slow down, dim headlights and turn on cabin lights. Never step out of the vehicle.
3. Lock all doors. Only visual search is allowed.
4. Do not submit to a physical or bodily search.
5. You are not obliged to open glove compartment, trunk or bags.
6. Ordinary/routine questions may be asked. Be courteous but firm with answers.
7. Assert your rights, have presence of mind and do not panic.
8. Keep your driver’s license and car registration handy and within reach.
9. Be ready to use your cellphone at anytime. Speed-dial emergency number.
10. Report violations immediately. Your actions may save others. – Bicol Mail