PNP chief Gen. Guillermo Eleazar (File photo)

MANILA – Philippine National Police (PNP) chief Gen. Guillermo Eleazar on Sunday welcomed the concern raised by the Commission on Human Rights (CHR) over President Rodrigo Roa Duterte’s suggestion to arm the police’s partners in fighting crimes and terrorism.

“We understand the concern of the officials of the Commission on Human Rights, but we assure them that the President’s suggestion is to encourage volunteerism and definitely not vigilantism,” Eleazar said in a statement.

Eleazar also said Duterte’s recommendation aims to protect the civilian volunteers against the criminal elements, including members of the New People’s Army (NPA), the armed wing of the Communist Party of the Philippines that is listed as terrorist organization by the United States, the European Union, the United Kingdom, Australia, Canada, New Zealand, and the Philippines.

“Batid ng ating Pangulo at kami mismo sa PNP ang panganib na kakaharapin ng aming volunteers (The President, and even we in the PNP, know the dangers that our volunteers will be facing) for standing up against criminal elements that include members of the CPP-NPA-NDF and the suggestion made was aimed at ensuring their own protection—but with an assurance that they will undergo the rules and procedures for civilians to possess and carry firearms,” Eleazar said.

He said the rules and procedures include securing License to Own and Possess Firearms (LTOPF) which is a requirement before a civilian could buy a firearm, firearms license, and the Permit to Carry Firearms Outside Residence (PTCFOR).

If civilians are allowed to possess and carry firearms for as long as they comply with the rules and regulations of the law and are qualified to do so, Eleazar said there is no reason to prevent members of civilian volunteer groups to enjoy the same privilege.

“Walang dahilan para hindi sundin ang mga patakarang ito sa pagmamay-ari ng baril ng mga sibilyan (There is no reason for the civilians to follow these guidelines for owning guns) even with our efforts to enhance our relations with the community in fighting criminality, insurgency, and illegal drugs, among others,” Eleazar said.

Genuine desire to combat lawlessness

Eleazar said Duterte’s call to arm civilian groups might be out of his strong desire to combat lawlessness in the society.

“Sa pagbibigay naman po ng mungkahi ng ating Pangulong Rodrigo Roa Duterte, nakita ko ang masidhi at tunay niyang pagnanais na matuldukan na ang mga suliraning ito ng ating bansa, lalo na ang tungkol sa iligal na droga at ang panggugulo ng mga rebeldeng komunista (In giving his recommendation, I saw the strong and genuine desire of our President Rodrigo Roa Duterte to end these problems of our country, especially with regard to illegal drugs and the unrest of the communist rebels,” Eleazar said.

On June 25, the PNP launched the Global Coalition of Lingkod Bayan Advocacy Support Groups and Force Multipliers that aims to build a strong collaborative partnership with the community in support of the ongoing campaign against criminality and terrorism.

Duterte inducted leaders of international and local advocacy support groups and volunteer organizations to form a Global Coalition of Lingkod Bayan Advocacy Support Groups and Force Multipliers.

Duterte thanked the PNP for taking the initiative to establish a shift in strategy in dealing with the country’s 53-year-old problem of Communist insurgency as a significant contribution to the objectives of the National Task Force to End Local Communist Armed Conflict (NTF ELCAC) to once and for all put a decisive end to the local rebellion.

In his message, Duterte recognized the efforts and support extended by the multi-sectoral groups to which he expressed his firm belief that through this coalition, the PNP can simply access, gather, mobilize and expand the pool of warm bodies and resources from different government agencies and sectoral organizations to complement the efforts of various law enforcement units in the fight against illegal drugs, insurgency, terrorism and in the implementation of health protocols.

“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,” Duterte said.

In response, CHR spokesperson Atty. Jacqueline Ann de Guia said "arming civilians without proper training, qualification, and clear lines of accountabilities may lead to lawlessness and proliferation of arms that may further negatively impact on human rights situation in the country."

Eleazar presented an informative overview of the Lingkod Bayan Advocacy Support Groups and Force Multipliers and how it can effectively help the PNP attain its objectives along with its current thrust and programs.

He said these strategic measures, along with other projects and programs meant to improve the lives of the Filipino people, are proof of the whole-of-government approach to end the decade’s old armed conflict due to communist insurgency.

“The use of firepower alone is not the ultimate solution to end this problem. What is needed is to present a better ideology to deny them the opportunity to recruit and eventually win the hearts and mind not only of the members of the CPP-NPA but also of those who are included in their support system in the grassroots.” Eleazar said.

The PNP initiated the creation of a global coalition of organizations both international and local in scope and is capable in providing proactive leadership, direction and guidance to all government and multi-sectoral efforts. (PNA)