PLEDGE TO ARM LOCAL CHIEFS SPARKS ’WILD WEST’ FEARS
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.