MANILA — President Rodrigo Duterte suggested the arming of civilian groups to aid police in crime fighting at the launch of Global Coalition of Lingkod Bayan Advocacy Support Groups and Force Multipliers in Camp Crame last June 25.

“If you have this coalition, you have a list of people who are there who can arm themselves. I will order the police if you are qualified, get a gun, and help us enforce the laws,” Duterte said.

“Don’t simply make an arrest tapos wala kang…ikaw ang mamatay. You are not supposed to die. A criminal is supposed to die,” he added, while also noting that killing suspects who already surrendered to authorities is never an option.

“If he goes voluntarily with you, good, it is ideal. But if they resist arrest violently, then you have the right to do your thing (that is) commensurate. You are not supposed to kill a person lying, kneeling, begging for his life,” he said.

“Hindi lalaki ang ganun. Pag nag-surrender ang tao, tapos na,” he added.

In the speech, Durterte also said that police must defend themselves against persons resisting arrest during operations. 

“If a person chooses to fight you, gun for gun, maybe a blunt instrument, you have every right to defend yourself. That is self-preservation, self-defense. You have to bring him under your control and drag him, dead or alive to the station. That is the essence of arrest,” Duterte said.

In a report by Rappler and Reutersin 2018, Duterte considered providing free guns to the public as long as they would fight drugs and crime.

Department of Interior and Local Government (DILG) Undersec. Martin Diño said handguns will be provided for free or private purchases subsidized but only for barangay captains not involved in illegal drugs.

“The condition is that the barangay captain should fight drugs and crime. If he is conniving with criminals, he could be the one shot,” Diño told Reuters.

STRICTER GUN CONTROL 

In another report by Rappler last June 27former Philippine National Police (PNP) chief and Sen. Panfilo Lacson said, “Stricter gun control measures by the Philippine National Police, including the more stringent issuance or even suspension of permits to carry firearms outside residences (PTCFORs), would be a better solution to stopping criminality than arming civilians.” 

“Arming civilians to fight criminality could backfire, especially if they don’t have the proper training and mindset. In the United States, there have been so many fatal shootings due to loose firearm laws,” he said. 

The Commission on Human Rights (CHR), on the other hand, said arming civilians “may exacerbate the country’s current human rights situation.”

CHR spokesperson Jacqueline Ann de Guia in a statement released on June 26, cited the 1987 Constitution as she argued that “the government shall only maintain one police force, which is national in scope and civilian in character.”

“Arming civilians without proper training, qualification, and clear lines of accountabilities may lead to lawlessness and proliferation of arms, which may further negatively impact the human rights situation in the country,” she said. 

Despite Lacson and the CHR’s disagreement, the PNP through its Chief Guillermo Eleazar backed Duterte’s idea. 

“We understand the concern of the officials of the Commission on Human Rights, but we assure them that the President’s suggestion is to encourage volunteerism and definitely not vigilantism,” Eleazar said in a statement, noting Duterte’s suggestion aims “to protect the civilian volunteers against the criminal elements, including members of the New People’s Army (NPA), the armed wing of the Communist Party of the Philippines that is listed as terrorist organization by the United States, the European Union, the United Kingdom, Australia, Canada, New Zealand, and the Philippines.”

“Batid ng ating Pangulo at kami mismo sa PNP ang panganib na kakaharapin ng aming volunteers for standing up against criminal elements that include members of the CPP-NPA-NDF and the suggestion made was aimed at ensuring their own protection but with an assurance that they will undergo the rules and procedures for civilians to possess and carry firearms,” Eleazar said.

The PNP Chief also noted that civilians are allowed to possess and carry firearms “as long  as they comply with the rules and regulations of the law and are qualified to do so” and that the rules and procedures involve include “securing License to Own and Possess Firearms (LTOPF) which is a requirement before a civilian could buy a firearm, firearms license, and the Permit to Carry Firearms Outside Residence (PTCFOR).”

“Walang dahilan para hindi sundin ang mga patakarang ito sa pagmamay-ari ng baril ng mga sibilyan even with our efforts to enhance our relations with the community in fighting criminality, insurgency, and illegal drugs, among others,” Eleazar said.

In a press conference on Monday, Eleazar clarified that the PNP will not issue guns. 

“The government, particularly the PNP, will not give guns,” Eleazar said.

LIMIT GUN OWNERSHIP TO POLICE, SOLDIERS

In another report by GMA Newsthe Gunless Society of the Philippines urged the Duterte administration to limit gun ownership to military and police personnel. 

“Ang aming mungkahi diyan, higpitan ang pagmamay-ari ng baril kung pwede malimitahan sa tactical units sa military and other law enforcement agencies,” Gunless Society of the Philippines Secretary-Gen. Norman Cabrera told Balitanghali.

Cabrera feared that without strict policies on gun ownership, there would be more incidents of people using unlicensed guns in the country. “Ang pamahalaan natin ngayon open system, as if guns are an ordinary commodity dahil sa ganyang polisiya lumalabas ang napakarami, mas marami pa sa mga lisensyadong baril na ‘di nako-control at mga illegal firearms so to speak,” he said, noting arming civilians for crime-fighting is not an option as the so-called gun culture in the Philippines remains a big problem. 

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