Opposition lawmakers from the House of Representatives on Wednesday slammed President Rodrigo Duterte's plan to arm barangay captains, with Magdalo party-list Representative Gary Alejano saying that it could have the effect of militarizing the entire country.
"With the same mindset of killing now, we could expect that the whole country would become a killing field," he said.
Alejano said that the government should instead focus on equipping the police force with the right equipment and training instead of arming barangay captains.
"Kulang na kulang pa rin ang ating mga kapulisan hanggang ngayon. Kahit nga may training ang ating mga pulis, nagkakaproblema pa lalo na kung yung wala o limitado ang karanasan at pagsasanay ng mga opisyales ng barangay," he said.
During the oath-taking newly-elected Central Luzon barangay captains in Clark, Pampanga on Tuesday, Duterte said he is considering allowing barangay captains to carry firearms for protection.
“I might consider arming you. If I think in my assessment and evaluation, at tatanungin ko ‘yung police pati ‘yung intelligence community, if you are really into it, the crime, I will support you and I may grant you possession and to carry your firearms,” he said.
Abuse of power
In a text message, Akbayan party-list Representative Tom Villarin told reporters that arming barangay leaders could be "a recipe for disaster. It becomes a problem and not the solution."
"With loose guns already a big problem, allowing more firearms even if licensed would perpetuate a culture of violence and abuse of power by persons of authority of which punong barangays are considered as such," he added.
Villarin also said that Duterte's plan could turn barangay captains into armed enforcers or "armed goons of politicians" instead of peace arbitrators.
"It goes against the intent and spirit of the Local Government Code and the barangay justice system," he said.
Caloocan City Representative Edgar Erice, meanwhile, said that Duterte's plan would create a "wild, wild West" scenario.
"Arming barangay captains of the 40,000 barangays simply means creating a private army of political kingpins in cities, provinces and municipalities," he said.
For his part, Ifugao Representative Teddy Baguilat Jr. said barangay officials are not equipped to enforce the law using guns.
"They don’t have the skill, orientation and education. Their primary task in law enforcement is to act as monitors for the police, help enforce local ordinances and report the more serious crimes to capable law enforcers," he said.
Senator Risa Hontiveros also expressed her opposition to the President's plan, noting that loose firearms is a problem.
"Problema na nga ang proliferation ng small arms and light weapons. Kung sa akin nga mas gusto ko yung adbokasiya ng isang gun-less society," she told reporters.
"Habang ginagawa natin ang security sector reforms sa AFP [Armed Forces of the Philippines] at PNP [Philippine National Police], na eventually ang AFP at PNP lamang ang maaring humawak at gumamit ng armas. Iyan yung tingin kong mas tamang trajectory ng mga solution at pagbabago para pigilin ang yung karahasan laban man sa ating mga state prosecutors, o asikasuhin yung mga krimen sa antas ng ating barangay," she said. — with a report by Virgil Lopez/BM, GMA News