Police defend Duterte’s proposal to arm civilian groups

·Contributor
·3 min read
FILE PHOTO: Philippine National Police (PNP) Chief Lieutenant General Guillermo Eleazar. (Photo: Artur Widak/NurPhoto via Getty Images)
FILE PHOTO: Philippine National Police (PNP) Chief Lieutenant General Guillermo Eleazar. (Photo: Artur Widak/NurPhoto via Getty Images)

The Philippine National Police (PNP) on Sunday (June 27) backed President Rodrigo Duterte's proposal to arm civilians as “partners of the police in fighting crime”, despite former PNP chief and incumbent Senator Panfilo’s Lacson rejection of the idea.

PNP chief Lieutenant General Guillermo Eleazar said that the proposed measure was only a means "to encourage volunteerism and definitely not vigilantism."

He also acknowledged the concerns raised by the Commission on Human Rights (CHR) saying, "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".

The country's top cop clarified that requirements such as the License to Own and Possess Firearms (LTOPF), firearms license and the Permit to Carry Firearms Outside Residence (PTCFOR) are safeguards against any possible abuse in the use of firearms.

Senator Ronald “Bato” dela Rosa, a Duterte ally in Congress and a former police chief of the president, does not any problem with arming supervised anti-crime civilian groups.

FILE PHOTO: Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte (L) and his former Philippine National Police (PNP) Director General Ronald Dela Rosa in Manila, Philippines January 29, 2017. REUTERS/Ezra Acayan
FILE PHOTO: Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte (L) and his former Philippine National Police (PNP) Director General Ronald Dela Rosa in Manila, Philippines January 29, 2017. REUTERS/Ezra Acayan

“I see no problem as long as they are properly supervised,” he said when asked about Duterte's plan to arm anti-crime volunteers to ensure their protection.

“It would be a big help to the [government] to have additional manpower to maintain peace and order],” Dela Rosa added.

On the other hand, Senator Panfilo Lacson, who was police chief from 1999 to 2001, believes that, rather than arming individuals, tighter gun control regulations should be imposed to reduce crime.

FILE PHOTO: Senator Panfilo Lacson. (Photo: AP)
FILE PHOTO: Senator Panfilo Lacson. (Photo: AP)

Lacson cautioned that arming citizens could lead to even more crimes. 

"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.

Recalling police killings, such as the cases of Jonel Nuezca in December 2020, and Hensie Zinampan earlier this year, Lacson said that shooting incidents involving cops should serve as a lesson against arming civilians.

"That is why I had suggested as a policy recommendation that policemen should turn in their issued firearms to their units’ armorer or supply officer when on off-duty status, and should not be issued PTCFORs while still in the active service. If our law enforcers who are supposed to be trained are prone to lapses, how much more in the case of untrained civilians?" Lacson said.

Duterte said he was "open" to arming "qualified" civilian groups as “force multipliers” on Friday.

FILE PHOTO: Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte checks the scope of a 7.62mm sniper rifle during the turnover ceremony of China's urgent military assistance given
FILE PHOTO: Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte checks the scope of a 7.62mm sniper rifle during the turnover ceremony of China's urgent military assistance given "gratis" to the Philippines, in Clark Air Base, near Angeles City, Philippines June 28, 2017. Also in picture: Wang Xianyun (L) military and defence attache of the People's Republic of China, H.E. Zhao Jianhua (2-L), ambassador of People's Republic of China to the Philippines, and Philippine Armed Forces Chief of Staff Lt. Gen. Eduardo Ano (R). REUTERS/Romeo Ranoco

“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.

The CHR also warned that “arming people without proper training, qualification, and clear lines of accountability” could have a negative impact on the state of human rights in the country.

Ana Catalina Paje is a development journalist passionate about grassroots communication geared towards genuine social change. She also writes about showbiz, lifestyle, and all things Pinoy pride. The views expressed are her own.

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