Duterte plan to arm village chiefs comes under attack

President Rodrigo Duterte early this week said he ‘might consider’ arming village officials (‘barangay’) to help in the fight against illegal drugs and criminals. (Reuters)
Updated 14 June 2018
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Duterte plan to arm village chiefs comes under attack

  • Rodrigo Duterte: “I might consider arming you. I will ask the police and the intelligence community. If you are really into it, the crime, I will support you and may grant you permission to carry firearms.”
  • Magdalo party-list Representative Gary Alejano said that arming village officials would create more problems than it would solve.

MANILA: President Rodrigo Duterte’s proposal to arm village chiefs could turn the country into a “killing field,” critics of the plan have warned.

Duterte early this week said he “might consider” arming village officials (“barangay”) to help in the fight against illegal drugs and criminals.

The Philippines’ Interior Ministry has given its backing to the plan.

“I might consider arming you. I will ask the police and the intelligence community. If you are really into it, the crime, I will support you and may grant you permission to carry firearms,” Duterte said in a speech to 2,854 newly elected village officials from Central Luzon on Tuesday.

The Philippine leader’s proposal drew mixed reactions, with some expressing support, while others voiced fears about community leaders being allowed to carry weapons.

Eduardo Ano, the interior and local government secretary officer-in-charge, said the idea would offer a form of self-protection for village officials.

In an email to Arab News, Ano said that arming village chiefs is a viable plan that depended on the gravity of the threat posed by lawless groups such as drug syndicates and terrorists.

“The chiefs are our first line of defense at the grassroots level. The need for urgent protection is imperative,” he said.

“Arming them would be more for self-defense since we have enough police to operate against lawless elements.”

According to Ano, village officials can buy their own guns legally and be granted weapons permits to defend themselves.

Philippines’ law provides that in the performance of his “peace and order” functions, a village chief “shall be entitled to possess and carry necessary firearm within his territorial jurisdiction subject to appropriate rules and regulations.”

Opposition lawmakers and and some members of the police force aired their concerns about the plan.

Magdalo party-list Representative Gary Alejano said that arming village officials would create more problems than it would solve.

“This will have an effect of militarizing the whole country. The country would become a killing field,” he said.

Alejano said the government should focus on providing police force with proper equipment and training.

Ifugao Representative Teddy Baguilat Jr. said village officials were not equipped to carry out law enforcement 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.

“Arming village officials will only lead to more abuse and violence.”

Akbayan Representative Tom Villarin said arming village leaders was “a recipe for disaster.”

“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.

“Instead of being peaceful mediators, conciliators or arbitrators, you will turn them into armed enforcers or, even worse, armed goons of politicians,” he said.


At least eight dead in surge of white-water creek in Italy

Updated 24 min 30 sec ago
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At least eight dead in surge of white-water creek in Italy

  • Five people lost their lives after a mountain stream suddenly flooded in Italy’s Calabria region
  • The five dead were part of a group of around 15 people walking along Raganello stream in Pollino national park, 11 of whom were rescued

ROME: At least eight people were killed in southern Italy on Monday when the level of a raging white-water creek in a deep mountain gorge swelled suddenly after heavy rainfall, officials said.
The national civil protection department said 18 people were rescued and six of those were injured in the flash rush of water in the Calabria region.
It was not clear how many people were missing because not all had entered the gorge with official guides and registered.
In some places the Raganello creek, part of the Pollino National Park, is at the bottom of a narrow, one-kilometer-deep gorge in the mountain. Rescue teams used ropes to descend the sides of the mountain to reach the site.
Images on national television showed helmeted mountain rescue squads rushing from the nearest town, Civita, to reach the gorge, a popular tourist attraction in summer.
The most seriously injured were taken by helicopter to hospitals in the provincial capital, Cosenza.
All of the victims were believed to be Italian tourists.