PLEDGE TO ARM LO­CAL CHIEFS SPARKS ’WILD WEST’ FEARS

Ottawa Citizen - - WORLD -

The Philip­pines in­te­rior min­istry said on Wed­nes­day that it plans to ac­quire pis­tols for com­mu­nity lead­ers willing to fight crime, spark­ing fears of more law­less blood­shed in the coun­try’s vi­o­lent crack­down on drugs.

Pres­i­dent Rodrigo Duterte, pic­tured, said on Tues­day that he was con­sid­er­ing arm­ing com­mu­nity lead­ers, known as “barangay” cap­tains, af­ter pledg­ing that of­fi­cials who opted to fight the war against drugs would have his full sup­port.

Last week he promised to pro­vide the same le­gal pro­tec­tion to barangay cap­tains as he did to soldiers or po­lice, vow­ing that they “will never go to jail” if they shot sus­pected crim­i­nals while per­form­ing their official du­ties.

Martin Dino, the in­te­rior de­part­ment un­der­sec­re­tary re­spon­si­ble for the coun­try’s 42,000 barangays, told Reuters that hand­guns would be pro­vided for free, or pri­vate pur­chases sub­si­dized, on the con­di­tion that the barangay cap­tains were not in­volved in il­le­gal drugs.

“Arm­ing cap­tains of the 40,000 barangays sim­ply means cre­at­ing a pri­vate army of po­lit­i­cal king­pins in cities, prov­inces, and mu­nic­i­pal­i­ties. It’s a wild, wild west sce­nario,” warned Edgar Erice, an in­ner city MP.

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