MANILA, Philippines - Justice Secretary Leila de Lima on Wednesday said she does not support calls for a total gun ban in the Philippines.
Speaking to ANC, De Lima said she used to believe that civilians should not carry guns but later changed her mind when she became a government official.
"I used to be anti-gun ownership. My position was - only law enforcers and only the military can carry firearms and never civilians but when I matured and I held positions in government, in the [Commission on Human Rights] and [Department of Justice], I guess civilians do need to protect also," she told Headstart host Karen Davila.
De Lima said one problem with calls for a total gun ban is that there are too many loose firearms in the country, which are used by criminals.
"You can never tell when you'll be targeted. It's not just at home. When you're on your way to the office or anywhere else, you can be a target. Having a firearm at your home may not be enough to protect yourself especially with the proliferation of loose firearms. You are completely defenseless," she said.
"Unless we ensure that there are no loose firearms out there...we can see in fact a strict and honest-to-goodness implementation of rules and regulations then perhaps we can talk about advocating no firearms for civilians. Until that time I am not prepared to support that," she added.
Several groups have called for stricter gun control laws in the country after a spate of gun violence incidents at the start of the year.
Pro-Gun Philippines, however, said police should step up the campaign against loose firearms. The group is also pushing for stricter screening of gun ownership applications.