MANILA — President Rodrigo Duterte on Friday signed a bill modernizing the Bureau of Fire Protection (BFP), including a provision arming firefighters with guns.
Duterte acknowledged that the provision to arm firefighters was "hotly contested" in Congress.
"Bakit mo bigyan ng baril ang mga bumbero, eh sunog lang ang kalaban n’yan? The organization itself and the individual bombero, they are exposed to a fraught of so many dangers," he said at the signing of the BFP Modernization Act.
(Why will you give a gun to firefighters when fire is their enemy?)
He said firemen are "helpless" when they are threatened with knives and gunfire by residents who want the blaze in their houses to be put out first.
Duterte said firehoses and other government property are sometimes sabotaged by disgruntled residents.
"Para naman medyo buo ang loob ng bombero, ‘yon ang, we thought of just arming them also. Tutal gobyerno ‘to and they can be called upon during emergencies to contribute to the law and order of the place, but they have to have something," he said.
(So that the courage of firefighters will be solid, we thought of just arming them also. Anyway, they are part of government and they can be called upon during emergencies to contribute to the law and order of the place.)
"It’s sad to say it, but ang ano dito, symbol ng ano is baril. Kung hindi ka makakita ng baril, hindi ka susunod. That is the reason why one of the things sa modernization kasali ‘yon," he added.
(But the symbol here is the gun. If you don't see a gun, you will not follow. That is the reason why one of the things in the modernization is that.)
Some lawmakers earlier opposed the arming of firemen.
The move will show that police are "unable to conduct order amid a chaotic fire." It is "is fraught with danger and sullies the reputation of the police and the country," said Sen. Richard Gordon.
Sen. Risa Hontiveros said her reservations on the arming of firefighters "is unfortunately not cured by limiting their number or imposing criteria or standards."
"The global evidence and debate simply do not support the proposition that emergency services personnel, including firefighters, should carry arms," she said.
Video courtesy of RTVM