MANILA — Malacañang on Monday said the public should not "waste time" speculating on President Rodrigo Duterte's "idea" to arm civilians to help law enforcers because this is not yet a policy.
"He is open to the idea pero wala pa naman pong finality (but there is no finality yet)," said Palace spokesman Harry Roque.
Duterte last Friday told a gathering of law enforcers and civilian volunteer "force multipliers" that he was "open" to arming civilian groups.
"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," he said.
Volunteers have a right to self-defense if they are in danger, Roque said in a press briefing.
"We cannot allow our volunteer groups to be at the mercy of criminal elements that we encourage them to fight alongside with us," he said, quoting Philippine National Police chief Gen. Guillermo Eleazar.
"There is not a policy yet. I’m sure it will be subjected to full staff work. Pero meanwhile, eh may reyalidad na habang tumutulong ang mga volunteers ay may banta rin sa kanilang mga buhay," added the Palace official.
(But meanwhile, there is a reality that while our volunteers are helping, there is also a threat to their lives.)
WHY SOME WORRY
The Commission on Human Rights on Saturday warned that "arming civilians without proper training, qualification, and clear lines of accountabilities" may negatively impact human rights in the country.
Sen. Panfilo Lacson said that instead of arming civilians, stricter gun control laws should be implemented to curb criminality.
"Arming civilians to fight criminality could backfire, especially if they don’t have the proper training and mindset. In the United States, there have been so many fatal shootings due to loose firearm laws,” Lacson, who was PNP chief from 1999 to 2001, said in a statement.
Progressive group Akbayan, meanwhile, warned that Duterte's proposal to arm civilians would lead to the creation of private armies in the cities.
"As if giving everyone guns will solve anything. It will not suppress crime. It will only create a massive private army that could provoke more violence and extrajudicial killings," said Akbayan Chair Emeritus Etta Rosales, a former CHR chair.
Addressing these criticisms, Roque said, "It’s an idea, as I said. It is not yet policy."
"I am sure all these views will be taken into consideration," he said.