Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte supports arming civilian volunteers to aid police officers. (Photo courtesy of the Presidential Communications Office)
Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte has come under fire from a Catholic priest and lawmakers after saying he wants to give guns to civilians to help law enforcers fight crimes.
Father Jose Botial of the Apostolic Vicariate of Jolo in Mindanao said Duterte’s proposal could lead to more lawlessness instead of curbing crimes.
“I do not understand where the president [Duterte] is coming from. Why do we need to arm civilians despite all the killings that are happening among drug suspects? Thousands of these cases are unresolved. Aren’t these crimes in themselves?” Father Botial posted on social media.
Duterte said on June 25 that he would be open to the police force’s civilian volunteers being issued handguns so that they can defend themselves while making a citizen’s arrest.
“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 law,” Duterte told a civilian volunteer group during an oath-taking ceremony.
“The criminal must die, you must live. I do not want you to die while making a valid arrest because you do not have the means to defend yourselves,” he said.
But we are in a nation where a culture of violence is rampant because of extrajudicial killings
Father Botial, however, questioned Duterte’s reasoning, saying guns are never a solution and encourage criminality and violence.
“More guns, more crimes. There is no direct link that says more guns lead to less crimes. I do not know where the logic is coming from. But we are in a nation where a culture of violence is rampant because of extrajudicial killings. Yet it seems we want to add more to the prevailing culture. This is too much,” he added.
Opposition lawmakers likewise warned the president about a rise in vigilante groups and the inability of the police to account for the number of lost firearms in the country.
They called on Duterte to “seriously reconsider” such a move.
“As an institution, the Philippine National Police should not be outsourcing its main duty of maintaining peace and order in our communities. Instead of arming civilians, it should intensify its own efforts to provide assistance to the people,” Senator Risa Hontiveros told reporters on June 28.
“How can we make those anti-crime organizations, whose gun training is informal, liable if they get involved in crimes?” Hontiveros said of the civilian groups.