CHECKPOINT. Comelec chair Sixto Brillantes Jr leads the inspection of Comelec checkpoints in Metro Manila, Saturday night, January 12. Instagram photo of James Jimenez
MANILA, Philippines - Unlike the guards in malls, police officers or soldiers in checkpoints do not frisk persons for weapons.
With a courteous demeanor, they can only block a car, look into the interior of the vehicle, and see if there are weapons in plain view that can be seized -- all in about 10 seconds.
"Unless they see something in plain view, they are not going to be able to ask for anything more than inspection," Comelec spokesman James Jimenez said.
How then are checkpoints effective in implementing the gun ban during elections?
"It was fairly effective in the past," Jimenez said during the Comelec inspection of various checkpoints in Metro Manila on Saturday, January 12, the eve of the poll gun ban.
During the previous elections, at least 2,742 firearms were confiscated and about 3,000 persons were arrested during checkpoint operations, according to Jimenez, citing police figures.
"Those are pretty good figures, especially when you're considering that you're only implementing it in a very limited area and for a limited time only," Jimenez told Rappler.
At least 1,634 election checkpoints were set up across the country which will randomly be activated during the election period which will end June 12.
The police claimed they have been successful in their gun control efforts even before the election gun ban that took effect Sunday, January 13.
The Philippine National Police (PNP) Directorate for Operations earlier reported that the police confiscated at least 4,976 loose firearms between January 13, and October 2012, a 69% improvement from a similar campaign in 2011.
According to the police, checkpoints contributed to the success of the campaign.
At least 476 checkpoint operations were conducted during the period, resulting in the arrests of 2,847 gun law violators, the police report said.
Jimenez recognized the gun control efforts being undertaken by the PNP, noting that as of Jan 11, 2013, the police have already confiscated more than 7,000 loose firearms.
"The good thing though is that the PNP now has a campaign for recovering loose firearms," Jimenez said.
Latest police data indicated there are still about 600,000 unregistered guns that need to be accounted for.
Police records also show there are 1.6 million licensed firearms in the country. A third of all licensed guns belong to the military and police.
Geneva-based Small Arms Survey figures indicated that the number of guns in circulation -- licensed and loose -- may reach up to 5 million guns.
Amid the growing clamor for stricter gun restrictions, the Comelec is hopeful the gun ban will help in the gun control efforts of the government.
"In and out of elections, lawless elements do have guns. But during the elections, we hope that this will make a difference," Jimenez told Rappler.
"We are hoping that to a certain extent, this will have a dampening effect on people resorting to guns," Jimenez added.
"If you don't get a PTC (permit to carry) then you don't have a gun with you. If you don't have a gun with you, you can't lose your temper and hurt somebody," Jimenez explained.
But Jimenez clarified that the gun ban targets neither gun ownership nor proliferation of loose firearms.
"Gun control is outside the ambit of Comelec powers. As far as the Comelec is concerned what we control is the transport of firearms," Jimenez said.