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PHILIPPINES

Philippine gun ban to curb May election violence starts

PUBLISHED : Monday, 14 January, 2013, 12:00am
UPDATED : Monday, 14 January, 2013, 4:16am

A nationwide ban on carrying firearms outside residences in the Philippines has begun to prevent violence ahead of May 13 congressional and local polls.

The Commission on Elections said the ban would end on June 12. Army-backed police will enforce the ban, especially in about 800 towns considered security hot spots due to a recent history of election violence or the presence of private armed groups.

Despite crackdowns, Philippine elections have been marred by violence, especially in rural areas awash with weapons and private militias. In 2009, 58 people - including 32 media workers - were killed by more than 100 gunmen in a massacre blamed on a political rivalry between two powerful clans in southern Maguindanao province.

"We have set up random checkpoints across the country," commission spokesman James Jimenez said, adding that the campaign would likely lead to arrests soon.

The ban covers the carrying of firearms, the hiring of armed bodyguards by candidates and the transporting of arms, explosives, raw materials or parts, the elections body said. It exempts President Benigno Aquino, who earlier rejected calls to declare a permanent, total ban after high-profile gun-related deaths since the start of the year.

Two children died from celebratory gunfire by new year revellers. A few days later, a drug-crazed gunman shot dead seven people on the outskirts of Manila, before police killed him. And on January 6, security forces shot 13 alleged criminals dead.

Rights monitors have said the proliferation of unlicensed guns fuels a sense of impunity across the Philippines, where some politicians employ private militias to threaten rivals and voters.

Agence France-Presse, Associated Press

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