President Rodrigo Duterte’s bid to arm civilians who want to join the fight against criminality was flouted again when he said that civilian volunteers of the Philippine National Police could get guns so they could defend themselves while making a citizen’s arrest.
“If you have this coalition, you have a list of people who are there and who can arm themselves. I will order the police. If you are qualified, get a gun and help us enforce the laws,” Duterte said during the oath taking of the National Coalition of Lingkod Bayan Advocacy Support Groups and Force Multipliers last Friday.
“The criminal must die, you must live,” Duterte said, pointing out that he did not want civilians making the arrest to end up dead because they did not have the means to defend themselves.
The ridiculously dangerous proposal naturally met opposition from lawmakers, human rights advocates and, thankfully, even Duterte’s own Justice Secretary.
Sen. Risa Hontiveros called on officials of the PNP to “think twice over” their support of the president’s plan, noting how gun-bearing and supposedly trained police officers have already been linked to the killing of innocent civilians.
Even Justice Secretary Menardo Guevarra said that while citizens are allowed to own and carry firearms after complying with state regulations, it would be a “totally different matter” if they would operate like an armed civilian group.
“Allowing them to band together and act like a vigilante group, however, is a totally different matter,” Guevarra told reporters. “I believe the PNP is strong enough to perform this duty,” he added.
Putting even more firearms in the hands of overzealous people and organized groups cannot be a good idea in a country where gun violence is already a serious problem. While the rest of the world is working on disbanding and disarming paramilitary groups, it would seem that the Philippines is being led in the opposite direction.
The country needs peace and progress. Adding more guns and armed groups into what is already an unstable situation is definitely not the solution we are looking for.*