COPS ARE ENOUGH. Department of Justice Secretary Menardo Guevarra said on Tuesday (June 29, 2021) the Philippine National Police is capable enough to combat crimes. He said the law allows civilians to carry guns but he is against deploying non-police groups to arrest criminals. (Photo courtesy of PNP Logistics Facebook)

MANILA – Department of Justice (DOJ) Secretary Menardo Guevarra on Tuesday said there is nothing legally amiss in the announcement of President Rodrigo Duterte to allow qualified civilians to bear arms as force multipliers

Except during a martial law, Guevarra told reporters that civilians have always been free to arm themselves for their protection, provided they comply with all existing laws and regulations on the ownership, possession, and carrying of firearms outside residence, including the requirement to pass a neuro-psychiatric test.

A mandatory drug test is also required.

The DOJ chief, however, expressed misgivings about allowing civilian groups to be armed legally and said the Philippine National Police (PNP) has sufficient manpower and resources to combat crime.

"Allowing them to band together and act like a vigilante group, however, is a totally different matter. I believe that the PNP is strong enough to perform this duty. Besides, except for a few high-profile incidents of violence, criminality on the streets is at an all-time low, due in part to the pandemic," he said.

Over the weekend President Duterte said he welcomed the idea of issuing firearms to qualified volunteers to help the government enforce the law.

“If you are qualified, get a gun and help us enforce the laws," Duterte said during the launch of the Global Coalition of Lingkod Bayan Advocacy Support Groups and Force Multipliers in Camp Crame, Quezon City, stressing that using firearms is applicable only when a criminal resists arrest or threatens the arresting person.

The President said they must familiarize themselves with the law and arrest procedures.

The newly formed coalition includes volunteer village watchmen, environmentalists, representatives from women and LGBT (lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender) groups, riders and motorists, and the religious sector. (PNA)