Philippine President Benigno Aquino may continue to carry a gun despite an impending ban on bearing firearms in the run-up to polls, an election official said Saturday.
Gun ownership is a sensitive topic in the Philippines, where calls are growing for tighter controls or an outright ban in the aftermath of a series of shootings starting on New Year’s Eve which left 23 people dead.
The ruling by the official Commission on Elections exempted Aquino, a gun enthusiast and competitive shooter, on the basis that he is constitutionally the head of the military.
“We have exempted the members of the Armed Forces of the Philippines and since the president is the commander-in-chief of the armed forces, then by necessary implication, (the exemption) covers the president,” said Emil Maranon, an official in the commission.
The ban, which takes effect on Sunday and will be in place for six-months, is intended to minimise violence ahead of local and congressional elections in May.
It was not unusual for local officials to seek exemptions to the gun ban but Maranon said this was the first time he could recall for the president of the country to apply.
On Wednesday, Aquino dismissed calls for a total ban on civilians carrying guns after a series of deadly shootings, saying it was a “knee-jerk reaction,” to the issue.
Two children died from bullet wounds amid gunfire from New Year revellers. A few days later a drugs-crazed gunman shot dead seven people during a 30-minute rampage on the outskirts of Manila, before police killed him.
Security forces shot another 13 people dead last Sunday in a case that has embarrassed the government and highlighted major corruption problems in the police and military.