Private security agencies need Comelec approval for gun ban exemptions – SC

MANILA, Philippines – The Supreme Court has declared that a Commission on Elections (Comelec) rule requiring private security personnel to secure gun ban exemptions during the election period is constitutional.

In a 22-page decision dated October 3 but publicized on Tuesday, November 14, the SC en banc denied for lack of merit the petition for certiorari filed by the Philippine Association of Detective and Protective Agency Operators (PADPAO) Region 7 Chapter Incorporated. The decision was penned by Associate Justice Alfredo Benjamin Caguioa.

PADPAO asked the SC to declare as unconstitutional Section 2(e), Rule III of Comelec Resolution Number 10015, which set the rules and regulations for the gun ban during the 2016 national and local elections.

Section 2(e) sets the documentary requirements for applications to secure an authority to bear, carry, or transport firearms or deadly weapons by members of private security service providers (PSSP) or private security agencies (PSA).

PADPAO argued that the Comelec "does not have any authority to promulgate" such rules covering PSAs.

It added that Republic Act 5487 or the Private Security Agency Law already grants them the authority to possess, bear, carry, and transport firearms, thus there is no need for them to apply for gun ban permits through the Comelec.

They further claimed that the resolution "violates 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."

PADPAO also said that the Comelec contradicted itself in Section 1 of the same resolution, which says members of PSSPs may carry firearms.

But the SC ruled that the Comelec was within its rule-making authority to issue the questioned provision in Resolution Number 10015. The Comelec's power to implement election laws is enshrined in the Constitution, the High Court said.

It also said that the PSAs' contracts with their clients "are not affected in any manner" by the Comelec rule to get authority from Comelec. "All that PSAs must do is to secure such authority," the SC said. 

The SC added that RA 5487 "is not a blanket authority on PSAs to carry firearms." The said law "is not so restrictive as to prohibit other government agencies from imposing additional restrictions relating to the conduct of business by PSAs and PSSPs under special circumstances."

"In this case, the special circumstance is the election period," the High Court continued.

The Court then took judicial notice of the history of Philippine elections which "have been marred by violence and unnecessary bloodshed."

The SC said: "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 also ruled that the P50 filing fee for each security guard applying for a gun ban permit is a reasonable charge and "can hardly be said to be exorbitant."