President Rodrigo Duterte’s proposal to arm civilian volunteers in fighting crime is “not a policy yet”, Malacañang said on Monday.
In a Palace press briefing, Presidential Spokesperson Harry Roque said while President Duterte is “open” to the idea of arming anti-crime volunteers, the proposal still needs to undergo the process of completed staff work.
“Well, as you said, he is open to the idea but there is no finality yet,” Roque said partly in Filipino. “So that is not a policy yet, I’m sure it will be subjected to full staff work.”
Roque said he shares the view of Philippine National Police (PNP) chief Guillermo Eleazar that the proposal to arm volunteer groups is to ensure their own protection and to defend themselves against criminal elements.
“Maybe the best view expressed so far is the view of PNP Chief Eleazar which I share, and that is we need to understand that volunteer groups have the right to defend themselves in the face of danger,” Roque said partly in Filipino.
Duterte floated the idea during the launch of the Global Coalition of Lingkod Bayan Advocacy Support Groups and Force Multipliers in Camp Crame on Friday.
In his message, Duterte recognized the efforts and support extended by the multi-sectoral groups to which he expressed his firm belief that through this coalition, the PNP can simply access, gather, mobilize and expand the pool of warm bodies and resources from different government agencies and sectoral organizations to complement the efforts of various law enforcement units in the fight against illegal drugs, insurgency, terrorism and in the implementation of health protocols.
“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.
In response, lawyer Jacqueline Ann de Guia, CHR spokesperson, said “arming civilians without proper training, qualification, and clear lines of accountabilities may lead to lawlessness and proliferation of arms that may further negatively impact on human rights situation in the country.”
Eleazar, however, assured that the President’s suggestion is to “encourage volunteerism and definitely not vigilantism”.
Eleazar also said Duterte’s recommendation 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.