MANILA - President Rodrigo Duterte on Tuesday said he was considering arming barangay chiefs to ensure their protection in the war on drugs and criminality.
“I might consider arming you. If I think in my assessment and evaluation — and I will also ask the police and intelligence community — if you are really into it, crime fighting, I may grant you possession and to carry your firearms,” Duterte said during the oath-taking of 3,100 newly-elected Central Luzon barangay captains in Clark, Pampanga.
“If I see you fighting, you don’t only have the [backing of the] Philippine National Police, the military, but me and [Interior] Secretary [Eduardo Año] will see you through. I won’t neglect you.”
Duterte also said he would give his full support to barangay officials who would get in trouble for helping the government in the fight against drugs.
“If there is a case filed against you and you think there is performance of duty, don’t be afraid. The only thing I ask of you, if you did something wrong, don’t bother approaching me,” he said.
“You have my support and I will take the cudgels for you… I’m willing to go to jail if need be.”
Duterte has been criticized for pursuing a brutal war on drugs, where more than 4,000 drug suspects have been killed since he assumed power, based on official police data.
Authorities have said those slain had resisted arrest.
The interior department has ordered barangays around the country to set up their respective anti-drug abuse councils, and failure to do so would lead to charges of misconduct and dereliction of duty.
The President earlier tagged several barangay officials in the drug trade, with government releasing a 'narco-list' naming several village officials before the recent elections.