Senators divided on Duterte's proposal to arm civilians

Katrina Domingo and Sherrie Ann Torres, ABS-CBN News

Posted at Jun 28 2021 03:29 PM

Senators divided on Duterte's proposal to arm civilians 1
Special Civilian Armed Auxiliary (SCAA) trainees under Task Force Davao undergo marksmanship course as part of their basic military training at an Army camp in Malagos District, Davao City on May 29, 2017. Manman Dejeto, ABS-CBN News

MANILA - Several senators on Monday had differing views on whether or not citizens should be allowed to carry their own firearms to help in the government's anti-crime drive.

President Rodrigo Duterte's proposal may lead to a new policy that would "ease up on the licensing of firearms," Senate President Vicente Sotto told reporters in a text message.

"Well, then we need to amend the law. An EO (executive order) won't do it," he said.

Sen. Ronald Dela Rosa, who served as Philippine National Police (PNP) chief before being elected to the Senate, said he sees "no problem as long as they are properly supervised." 

"It would be a big help to the government to have additional manpower to maintain peace and order at no additional cost to the government," said dela Rosa, an ally of Duterte.

Sen. Aquilino Pimentel III blasted the proposal, saying "rules on gun ownership must be made stricter." 

"The laws against unlicensed firearms must be strictly enforced," he said.

"Train the police better. Hire more policemen if necessary. Allow reputable experienced foreign police services to visit our PNP under a Visiting Police Forces Agreement so that our PNP can learn from them about crime fighting, solving, and prevention," he said.

Senate Minority Leader Franklin Drilon said the Senate minority bloc would oppose the proposal should it be tackled in the chamber.

"More guns do not make a country safe. More guns will not solve poverty and hunger. More guns will not bring back lost jobs. More guns will not bring back investor's confidence," Drilon said in a statement.

"What the government needs to do is to bring back good governance to address the causes of criminality which are poverty, hunger and joblessness. These are the main factors that drive people to commit crimes," he said.

Duterte said over the weekend at a gathering of law enforcers and civilian volunteer "force multipliers" that he was "open" to arming civilian groups. 

In 2017, Duterte gave the same pronouncement in Bohol, after Abu Sayyaf terrorists were seen on the island.

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