Thu, Jun 14, 2018 - Page 6 News List

Duterte to arm community leaders

Reuters, MANILA

The Philippine Ministry of the Interior and Local Government yesterday said it plans to acquire pistols for community leaders willing to fight crime and drugs, prompting concern it could fuel even more violence in the nation’s bloody crackdown.

Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte on Tuesday said he was considering arming community leaders, known as barangay captains, after consulting with the police and intelligence community.

He last week vowed to provide the same legal protection to barangay captains as he did soldiers or police, saying they “will never go to jail” if they shot suspected criminals in the performance of their duty.

Martin Dino, the ministry undersecretary responsible for the nation’s 42,000 barangays, said that handguns would be provided for free, or private purchases subsidized, but only for barangay captains not involved in illegal drugs.

Duterte has repeatedly said that thousands of community officials were involved in the trade, without elaborating.

“The condition is that the barangay captain should fight drugs and crime. If he is conniving with criminals, he could be the one shot,” Dino said.

The plan to arm civilians is supported by the Association of Barangay Captains, said its president, Edmund Abesamis.

Barangay captains without firearms were reluctant to report illegal drug activities for fear of being targeted by gangs, he told CNN Philippines yesterday.

The government is obsessed with instilling fear among communities, rather than tackling the root causes of drug addiction, activist group Rise Up for Life and for Rights said.

“Arming the barangay captains is another foolish approach that would create power play among local officers on the ground,” a spokeswoman said, adding that communities had seen enough “tyrannical and fascist attacks” during Duterte’s war on drugs.

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